This book annoyed me. The characters were underdeveloped. Vermeer was opaque, and the main character was dull and not fleshed out. I hated her passiviThis book annoyed me. The characters were underdeveloped. Vermeer was opaque, and the main character was dull and not fleshed out. I hated her passivity. I do not have to love the main character to love the book, but I do need to be able to understand her or him and identify with her or him or I will chafe at being placed in their shoes.
The book was slow overall. The entire book just seemed like more of the same-- dull passive girl interacts with temperamental artist. I remember the point that I became disgusted with the book (I read it a decade ago.)-- her advances rejected by Vermeer, the main character lets some guy she doesn't feel particularly attracted to take her in the back alley. Not only does the author not explain why the girl is having sex with someone she does not particularly like (and at a time when sex outside of marriage is frowned upon and having an illegitimate child could ruin her already precarious social circumstances, a little insight into her thought process would have been nice), the author described it as something that happened to her instead of something she chose to do. I don't even remember how the book ended, but I'm sure the girl did something incomprehensible that the author gave no reason for.
I enjoyed the writing style and the historical setting, which is why the book is 2 stars instead of one. These are the only things that got me through the book. ...more
**spoiler alert** I think this book is a worthwhile read. It's depiction of the class system, elitist snobbery and hypocrisy, and gender roles was eye**spoiler alert** I think this book is a worthwhile read. It's depiction of the class system, elitist snobbery and hypocrisy, and gender roles was eye-opening. It made me more appreciative of the fact that I do not have to live in such a stilted world where social roles are rigidly enforced and any deviation can mean ruin.
However, those who are interested in more exciting and suspenseful reads à la Dan Brown may find this book slow and tedious. The interesting enough plot is often dragged down by long philosophical tangents. While I expected to read a book about a woman's fall from grace, in the end I realized that the plot was more a vehicle to put a spotlight on Russian life and philosophy than the highlight of the book. Indeed, I did not realize that the title character of the book is not the sole focus. At least half of the book is devoted to the storyline of another character and his family. If you don't want to get mired in the niceties of 19th century Russia, this book may bore you.
The biggest disappointment for me was the ending. I waited expectantly for the infamous suicide, and once it came, the rest of the book dragged on. The end of the book, once again, returned to philosophy in its focus of how to live a good (defined as Christian) life. Unfortunately, this seemed sudden and trite and a little preachy, as though Tolstoy didn't want the reader to miss the moral of the story. Unfortunately, it does not carry the same force as, say, Voltaire's imperative to "cultivate your garden."...more