Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Girl with a Pearl Earring

Rate this book
With precisely 35 canvases to his credit, the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer represents one of the great enigmas of 17th-century art. The meager facts of his biography have been gleaned from a handful of legal documents. Yet Vermeer's extraordinary paintings of domestic life, with their subtle play of light and texture, have come to define the Dutch golden age. His portrait of the anonymous Girl with a Pearl Earring has exerted a particular fascination for centuries—and it is this magnetic painting that lies at the heart of Tracy Chevalier's second novel of the same title.

Girl with a Pearl Earring centers on Vermeer's prosperous Delft household during the 1660s. When Griet, the novel's quietly perceptive heroine, is hired as a servant, turmoil follows. First, the 16-year-old narrator becomes increasingly intimate with her master. Then Vermeer employs her as his assistant—and ultimately has Griet sit for him as a model.

233 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1999

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Tracy Chevalier

56 books9,814 followers
19 October 1962 in Washington, DC. Youngest of 3 children. Father was a photographer for The Washington Post.

Nerdy. Spent a lot of time lying on my bed reading. Favorite authors back then: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madeleine L’Engle, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Joan Aiken, Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander. Book I would have taken to a desert island: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.

BA in English, Oberlin College, Ohio, 1984. No one was surprised that I went there; I was made for such a progressive, liberal place.

MA in creative writing, University of East Anglia, Norwich, England, 1994. There’s a lot of debate about whether or not you can be taught to write. Why doesn’t anyone ask that of professional singers, painters, dancers? That year forced me to write all the time and take it seriously.

Moved to London after graduating from Oberlin in 1984. I had studied for a semester in London and thought it was a great place, so came over for fun, expecting to go back to the US after 6 months to get serious. I’m still in London, and still not entirely serious. Even have dual citizenship – though I keep the American accent intact.

1 English husband + 1 English son + 1 tortoiseshell cat.

Before writing, was a reference book editor, working on encyclopedias about writers. (Yup, still nerdy.) Learned how to research and how to make sentences better. Eventually I wanted to fix my own sentences rather than others’, so I quit and did the MA.

Talked a lot about becoming a writer as a kid, but actual pen to paper contact was minimal. Started writing short stories in my 20s, then began first novel, The Virgin Blue, during the MA year. With Girl With a Pearl Earring (written in 1998), I became a full-time writer, and have since juggled it with motherhood

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
234,456 (32%)
4 stars
269,420 (37%)
3 stars
163,213 (22%)
2 stars
37,097 (5%)
1 star
17,888 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 12,088 reviews
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books249k followers
March 30, 2020
“I heard voices outside our front door - a woman's, bright as polished brass, and a man's, low and dark like the wood of the table I was working on. They were the kind of voices we heard rarely in our house. I could hear rich carpets in their voices, books and pearls and fur.”

 photo Girl20With20the20Pearl20Earring_zpsmfguurj3.jpg
The Girl With the Pearl Earring

When the Vermeers came to visit Griet’s home she had no idea they were there for her. Her parents had decided, given their near destitution, to find Griet a position as a maid with a wealthy family. Her older brother had already been placed in a Delft tile factory. It was now her turn to earn the food that made it’s way into her belly. She was, after all, seventeen.

Johannes Vermeer was a master painter, recognized even in his own time as one of the best, but he was a slow painter. He would only paint when he was inspired to paint. An empty purse or a rumbling stomach were never enough inspiration to make him paint faster. He averaged only two to three paintings a year. As someone who has always admired his paintings I do wish he had been more prolific with his brush, but the fact that there are so few paintings by Vermeer make them all the more precious.

Griet is thrown into this chaotic household. The house is brimming with children, too many children even by the standards of the day. Catharina, Vermeer’s wife, liked being pregnant and though the added burden of a new mouth to feed each year places extra financial stress on her husband and her mother Maria Thins she is oblivious to the consequences. Their fortunes wane and fall based more on the property incomes of her mother than on the commissioned paintings of Vermeer. Each year the purse strings get pulled a bit tighter.

There is one patron, a man who has bought several Vermeer paintings, who they all have to curry favor with...Van Ruijven. His wealth infuses him with an air of entitlement. He is used to getting what he wants and when he sees the wide eyed beauty who has just joined Vermeer’s household he decides he wants her.

Vermeer has found from the very beginning that Griet is different. She sees the world as a painter sees the world. He finds reasons to have her help him by grinding paints and assisting with the objects that populate his paintings. It is only natural that a young girl would start to have feelings and dreams regarding a man such as Vermeer. He is not only talented, but he is also attractive with those gray eyes that see so much more than anyone else.

”I did not like to think of him in that way, with his wife and children. I preferred to think of him alone in his studio. Or not alone, but with only me.”

She becomes very adept at lying so she can spend more time in the studio.

 photo Procuress_zpsgaeilope.jpg
The soldier in The Procuress reminds me of Van Ruijven. One of the most interesting things about this painting is the precariously perched pitcher. It makes me so nervous that I want to reach into the painting and move it to somewhere safer.

Van Ruijven, like odious men always seem to be, is adept at finding young women alone. He is not wanting to gossip with her or exchange thoughts about the weather or to woo her or to cajole her into parting with her charms. His hands with fingers like hooks push against her clothes weighing the curve and shape of her. She has to fend him off without offending him.

Griet has another man in her life, not one that she would choose, but one that is infatuated with her. Pieter, the butcher’s son, wants to make her his wife. Being the wife of a butcher is a dream for many women because she and her family will always be well fed. A butcher is miles away from dream landscape of being the wife of a master painter.

Tracy Chevalier has deftly conceived the possibility of The Girl with the Pearl Earring being a maid in the Vermeer household. With each new revelation the tensions between Griet and Catharina tighten like lute strings pressing into tender flesh. Maria Thins, a realist, runs interference between all parties as best she can, but Catharina beset by jealousy and churlishness has difficulty seeing the bigger picture. I’ve read where other reviewers were disappointed in this book. They felt that very little happened, but they must be the same people who think baseball is boring.

I was on the edge of my seat while reading this book as if I were watching a ten pitch at bat in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. The deception of the pitcher trying to outmatch the quick hands of the batter. The shifting of the outfield depending on the ball the pitcher intends to throw next. The subtle communications between the catcher and the pitcher. Add a base runner at first and now the situation feels like Griet trying to maneuver her way through a world of lust, deviousness, and deceit. Does she run or does she wait for something to happen?

There are lots of moments that need no dialogue as Griet experiences impossible longings…“I could not think of anything but his fingers on my neck, his thumb on my lips.” There are things we can’t say because they can not be unsaid.

 photo Scarlett20Johansson20Girl20with20the20Pearl_zpsrwiiiuod.jpg
Scarlett Johansson played Griet in the 2003 movie of The Girl With the Pearl Earring.

The painting that Vermeer paints of Griet is a compromise to Van Ruijven who wanted much, much more. With her direct gaze at her audience and the slight parting of her lips this is an acceptable form of pornography, slightly scandalous, fodder for gossips, but not anything that could bring unwanted attention from the authorities. It gives Griet a shiver to think of her captured innocence resting under the lecherous eyes of Van Ruijven, but better a painting than losing that which she wishes to give her future husband.

I bought a canvas copy of The Girl With the Pearl Earring last year. The print is gallery wrapped which gives the painting animation as if it can jump away from the wall and walk into this life. She is hung over the staircase with enough light from the window over the door to show off the skill of Vermeer to illuminate. When people walk in the door they are struck as millions over centuries have been struck. People who don’t know a Vermeer from a Dali have to take a moment to access and appreciate her lustrous beauty. From where I sit to read I can see her and occasionally she catches my eye, a flirtation that makes me feel years younger.

”I looked at the painting one last time, but by studying it so hard I felt something slip away. It was like looking at a star in the night sky--if I looked at one directly I could barely see it, but if I looked from the corner of my eye it became much brighter.”

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Daniel.
Author 3 books70 followers
July 23, 2007
Another one of my wife's recommendations (I read a lot of books that way), I picked it up from the bookshelf the night we came back from seeing the film with Scarlett Johansonn and Colin Firth. I loved the movie--it was just so incredibly sumptuous--and was curious to know the story in the novel, which I knew from experience, and from my wife's continuous comments, would be different, more detailed. I was right.

Chevalier has won a place in my heart and bookshelf. Her novels are well-crafted, simple to follow, and addictive; Girl was no exception. The story of the maid Griet in 1600's Delft, Holland, was amazing in its simple prose and endless emotion. Completely fictional (no one knows who exactly were the models for any of Vermeer's paintings), it nonetheless possesses a veracity that makes you believe Chevalier found the long-lost journal of this unknown woman and wrote her novel based on it. The details of seventeen century Holland are rich; you feel you are walking the canal-lined streets of Delft, smelling the pungent scents of the Meat Market, holding your breath as Vermeer paints next to you. Griet is a wonderful protagonist, taking you into her world, yet retaining a few secrets for herself, especially where Vermeer is concerned.

Girl is one of those novels that truly invites you, and almost kidnaps you, to become part of the story, to walk next to the characters, to share in their lives, to feel as they feel. Watch the movie, by all means (the photography is absolutely incredible), but then read the novel and get the whole story. You will not be disappointed.
Profile Image for Kate.
29 reviews33 followers
August 4, 2007
I know almost nothing about art, but even I can tell that Girl With a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer is a brilliant painting; 'captivating' is probably the best word to describe it. One presumes that Chevalier agrees with me, and this is what lead her to write a novel about the painting, its subject and its creator. So, is the novel as captivating as the piece that inspired it?

The short answer would be 'no'.

Now for the longer answer...

Chevalier is probably one of the best-known historical novelists of the last ten years, with this book always in the foreground when she is discussed. As far as historical information goes, I think she does okay with it. I had a pretty clear picture of the Netherlands in the seventeenth century by the time I was done with the book (whether or not its accurate or not is another matter), but I felt at times that there wasn't that detail that critics proclaimed about on the cover.

The characters, I feel, are never truly developed. Vermeer himself remains a mystery throughout, even to the protagonist and narrator, Griet, who appears to have some connection with him. Griet meanwhile, is what I would describe as a stock teenage girl character. She is similar to many characters I've read before, and yet she does not really advance on that.

The narrative style is one that I would have adored at 14, but by now find to be pedestrian. This is first person narrative at its simplest (and blandest) and I don't feel that we gain anything from it - the novel may just as well have been in third person and would not have suffered for it. It may even have benefited from it.

The structure is interesting. Split into parts that represent years, rather than having chapter breaks makes it difficult to find a stopping place at times, and it is this more than anything else that makes a page turner of the novel. Meanwhile, the entire thing seems to be building to the inevitable moment when Vermeer will paint Griet. The scenes are handled with less intensity than I had hoped for from the build up, and once the painting is finished, Chevalier seems to want nothing but for the novel to be over too, and closes it down rather too quickly.

Perhaps the fact that little is known about Vermeer's life would imply that a fictional version of it would be easy to tell. Sadly, the gaps in knowledge seem to be too big to fill.

At the end of the novel, I had discovered how this work came about, the girl staring out from it, but still had almost no real idea of the man behind it. It is, in my opinion, a failure in this respect.

However, it is a good read if you're looking for something historical but not too heavy. Or if you like art there are some interesting discussions about colour in there. I can see why many people enjoy this novel, but I cannot fathom why some hold it in such high acclaim. I feel it will be some time before I read anything else by Tracy Chevalier.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews44 followers
September 17, 2021
Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier

Girl with a Pearl Earring is a 1999 historical novel written by Tracy Chevalier. Set in 17th century Delft, Holland, the novel was inspired by Delft school painter Johannes Vermeer's painting Girl with a Pearl Earring. Chevalier presents a fictional account of Vermeer, the model, and the painting. The novel was adapted into a 2003 film of the same name and a 2008 play.

Sixteen-year-old Griet lives with her family in Delft in 1664. Her father has been recently blinded in an accident, and the family's precarious economic situation forces Griet's parents to find her employment as a maid in painter Johannes Vermeer's household.

Becoming a maid casts doubt on Griet's respectability because of the bad reputation that maids have for stealing, spying and sleeping with their employers. It is not revealed how much of this reputation is earned.

At the Vermeers, she befriends the family's oldest daughter, Maertge, but is not on good terms with Cornelia, one of Vermeer's younger daughters. She also becomes friendly with Tanneke, the other house servant, but is careful to remain modest and unobtrusive for fear of making Tanneke jealous. ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه نوامبر سال 2001میلادی

عنوان: دختری با گوشواره مروارید؛ نویسنده: تریسی شوالیه؛ مترجم: گلی امامی؛ تهران، نشر چشمه، 1380 در 237ص؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان آمریکایی بریتانیا - سده 20م

عنوان: دختری با گوشواره مروارید؛ نویسنده: تریسی شوالیه؛ مترجم: طاهره صدیقیان؛ تهران، کتابسرای تندیس، 1381، در 269ص، شابک9789645757401؛

نقاشی روی جلد کتاب را، «یوهانس ورمیر»، در سده ی هفدهم میلادی کشیده است، حدس‌ها برای شناسایی نام این مدل نقاشی، بسیار گسترده بوده؛ و همه ی آنها، به علت عدم وجود مشخصه��� ای ویژه، در «صورت»، «لباس»، یا حتی «محیط»، در حد حدس و گمان، باقیمانده‌ است؛ از جمله ی حدسها، به «ماریا ورمیر (دختر بزرگ یوهانس)»، «مدلینا ون رویژون (دختر دوست و حامی یوهانس، پیتر ون رویژون)»، و یا مدل گمنامی، که در خانه ی «ورمیر» به عنوان پیشخدمت کار می‌کرد، میتوان اشاره کرد؛ جدای از همه ی این حسها و تفاسیر، این اثر نقاشی از معدود آثاری است، که الهامبخش بسیاری از نویسندگان، نقاشان و فیلمسازان در سده ها پس از شکل گیریش بوده‌ است؛ از جمله همین نویسنده «تریسی شوالیه» نیز تحت تاثیر همین نقاشی، این داستان را آفریده است؛

داستان در «دلف»، شهر محل اقامت نقاش، و خانواده‌ اش رخ می‌دهد؛ رمان جایی آغاز می‌شود، که «یوهانس ورمر» و همسرش «کاتارینا»، به خانه‌ ی پدر و مادر «گرت» می‌آیند، تا او را ببینند؛ آن‌ها به دنبال خدمتکاری برای خانه شان می‌گردند؛ پدر «گرت» کاشی سازی است، که بر اثر حادثه‌ ای، بینایی خویش را از دست داده، و از کار افتاده شده؛ خانواده‌ ی «گرت» در شرایط اقتصادی بسیار بدی به سر می‌برند، بنابراین تصمیم می‌گیرند، دخترک شانزده ساله، به عنوان خدمتکار، مشغول کار شود؛ «گرت» دختری مذهبی است، و از اینکه باید به خانه‌ ی کاتولیک‌ها برود، احساس چندان خوشایندی ندارد؛ خانواده‌ ی «ورمر» موافقت کرده‌ اند، او روزهای یکشنبه، به خانه ی خویش برگردد؛ در ادامه‌ ی داستان، «گرت» توجه ارباب را به خود جلب می‌کند، و اجازه پیدا می‌کند، کارگاه نقاشی ارباب را، تمیز کند؛ از آنجایی که «یوهانس ورمر» اجازه‌ ی ورود اعضای خانه، به کارگاهش را نمی‌دهد، این مسئله، حساسیت برانگیز می‌شود؛ تا اینکه نقاش، تصمیم می‌گیرد، پرتره‌ ی دخترک را نقاشی کند، او از «گرت» می‌خواهد گوشواره‌های مروارید همسرش را، بیاویزد، و به جای مدل بنشیند...؛

نقل از متن: (حرف��هایش باعث حیرت من شد، اما وقتی به چشمانش نگاه کردم، و در آنها گرسنگی را دیدم، دریافتم که چرا غرورش را، کنار گذاشته است، این گرسنگی را، پسر یک قصاب می‌توانست بر طرف کند

دست کم در مورد دروغی که جلوتر گفته بودم؛ سئوالی نکرد؛ نمی‌توانستم به آنها بگویم، چرا «تانِکی» از من عصبانی است؛ آن دروغ، دروغی بسیار بزرگتر را پنهان می‌کرد؛ مجبور می‌شدم بیش از اندازه توضیح دهم؛ «تانِکی» فهمیده ‌بود بعد از ظهرها که می‌بایست مشغول خیاطی باشم، چکار می‌کنم

من به ارباب کمک می‌کردم

دو ماه پیش شروع شده بود؛ بعد از ظهری در ماه ژانویه، کمی بعد از تولد «فرانسیسکو»؛ هوا سرد بود؛ «فرانسیسکو» و «یوهان» هر دو بیمار بودند؛ سرفه می‌کردند، و به سختی نفس می‌کشیدند؛ «کاتارینا» و دایه کنار آتش رختشویخانه به آنها رسیدگی می‌کردند، و بقیه ی ما نزدیک آتش آشپزخانه نشسته بودیم

فقط او آنجا نبود؛ بالا بود؛ به نظر نمی‌رسید که سرما بر او تاثیر بگذارد

کاتارینا آمد و در درگاه میان آشپزخانه و رختشویخانه ایستاد؛ گفت: «کسی باید به عطاری برود»؛ صورتش سرخ شده بود: «مقداری دارو برای پسرها می‌خواهم»؛ مستقیما به من نگاه می‌کرد

معمولا من، آخرین نفری بودم، که برای چنین کاری، انتخاب می‌شدم؛ رفتن به عطاری، مثل خرید از قصابی، یا ماهی‌ فروشی نبود، وظایفی که «کاتارینا»، پس از تولد «فرانسیسکو»، همچنان به عهده‌ ی من، گذاشته بود؛ عطار، پزشکی مورد احترام بود، و «کاتارینا» و «ماریاتین»، دوست داشتند، خودشان به آنجا بروند؛ چنین تجملی برای من، مجاز نبود؛ هرچند در هوای به این سردی، هر وظیفه‌ ای، به کم اهمیت‌ترین عضو خانه سپرده می‌شد؛ برای اولین بار، «مرته» و «الیزابت»، نخواستند مرا همراهی کنند؛ خودم را در شنل و شالی پشمی، پیچیدم، و «کاتارینا» به من گفت، از عطار، گل خشک اقطی، بخرم؛ «کورنلیا» در اطرافم می‌چرخید، و مرا تماشا می‌کرد، که گوشه‌ های شال را به هم گره می‌زدم...)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 04/10/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 25/06/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Barry Pierce.
576 reviews7,774 followers
July 2, 2017
I approached this novel trepidatiously. How could I ever suspend my disbelief with this work? How could I ever believe such a ridiculous tale about Vermeer and one of his most revered paintings? I must admit that I opened this novel expecting to utterly detest the lies it weaves. By page two I realised that I was an idiot who should never be listened to.

Griet is hired as a maid to the Vermeer family in Delft. This novel supposes that Griet the maid was the sitter for Vermeer's great work Girl with a Pearl Earring. However that is not the story, or at least it is only a small part of it. The novel mainly concerns the inner workings of the Vermeer household and Griet's attempts to keep everything in control. It is a fantastic character study and I do admire Chevalier's bravery in using the first-person narrative. Whilst I will admit that at times Griet's dialogue is somewhat stilted and some lines are just downright odd ('His smile made me grip my broom tightly' was one line that made me chuckle due to its utter ridiculousness), she is never an annoying or tiring character.

I really enjoyed the subtlety and delicacy of the novel. The plot flows along nicely which causes you to really fly through the narrative. It is not a criticism that I often voice but I would have almost liked for this novel to be longer. I feel I will truly miss Griet. I must say that I am somewhat smitten with this novel. It genuinely surprised me. It's really great.
Profile Image for Terrie  Robinson.
446 reviews718 followers
December 1, 2020
"Girl with a Pearl Earring" by Tracy Chevalier was an interesting historical fiction concept!

It was extremely cleverly how the author created Griet as the protagonist, maid and model for the famous painting 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'. No one knows who the models were for any of Vermeer's paintings. So, I applaud this author's imaginative use of creating a story around the Master Painter's exquisite painting.

Forced by her parents to become a maid to the Vermeer household, Griet is saddened to learn of the assignment. Hearing the news that she will reside with them and only be allowed to return home to her own family on Sunday's is heart wrenching for her. Regardless of her feelings, she diligently begins preforming her assigned duties of boiling, scrubbing, wringing, hanging and ironing the unmanageable heaps of laundry from this large and growing family. While the enormous pots of water are set on the fire to boil to begin the tedious laundering process, Griet often gets an early start on other assigned duties so no time is wasted during her long and exhausting days.

However, Griet's most important duty as a maid in this household is the privilege of cleaning Vermeer's upstairs studio. To enter the artist's studio is considered an honor bestowed on few as the painter does not even allow his wife, Catharina, the freedom to enter. In cleaning the studio Griet is instructed that it is to remain exactly as the artist left it the previous day. If an item is touched to dust under it, it must be returned exactly as it was found. Failure to follow the rules set by the painter concerning his studio will cause her to be dismissed and sent away.

Because Griet is allowed to enter Vermeer's studio, Catharina shows an immediate and obvious dislike for her. Her dislike transitions to jealousy and mistrust when the maid is asked by the painter to assist him in his studio attic for the process of grinding stones to create the colors for paints he plans to use. There seems to be an unspoken language, understanding and respect that develop between the painter and his maid concerning how they see light, color and the use of balance necessary for a finished painting.

Griet is the planned model for a promised painting to one of Vermeer's older patrons who openly lusts after the young and innocent maid. As the painter nears the completion of the painting, he insists Griet wear Catharina's pearl earrings to add needed reflection of light to the painting. Although she agrees the painting needs the reflective light, Griet is hesitant to comply fearing the backlash from Catharina for wearing her earring. Griet finally relents but boldly insists Vermeer place the earring on her lobe. He does so with a sensual tenderness, touching her lobe, inserting the wire and pushing it through. Griet speaks of what takes place next:

"He did not remove his hand. His fingers brushed against my neck and along my jaw. He traced the side of my face up to my cheek, then blotted the tears that spilled from my eyes with his thumb. He ran his thumb over my lower lip. I licked it and tasted salt.”

When Vermeer places the earring on Griet's lobe, she can only think of his fingers on her afterwards. It is clear she is infatuated by the quiet mystique of this painter. Perhaps he was also taken by her, discovering her ability to see the array of colors and light he sees in all things. Perhaps it was a longing of what could happen with the unleashing of forbidden desire. Vermeer chooses to move back to his easel and palette to finish the painting.

A historical fiction novel, built around a famous painting, brought to life by the rich colorful written words from this author's palette. It is beautifully simple, where the unspoken, eye-holding looks that pass between Griet and Vermeer are suspended in air and left to the imagination of the reader. There is so much between the lines in this book one does not discover until many days after finishing. As I write this review, I continue to flip through the chapters and discover more and more that I missed on my initial reading.

This is a masterpiece I will continue to savor forever!
Profile Image for Madeleine.
Author 2 books867 followers
August 29, 2013
So the parts when Vermeer was actually being a painter were interesting. Seeing as I slogged through this on account of a recommendation that arose from an art-class lecture on Vermeer, I was hoping that the art stuff would at least deliver.

But it's not a good sign when a book's most compelling moments revolve around two people grinding pigments. And, no: "Grinding pigments" is not a euphemism for artist-bangin'. It is, quite literally, referring to the detailed descriptions of how paint was made in the days before those fancy metal tubes replaced pig bladders as the paint-storing vessels of choice.

This was the most predictable book I've read in a while, and that includes the two graphic-novel series that are simply retelling stories I know well in a new medium. I knew exactly where the plot was going within the book's first dozen pages. Every subsequent thread was introduced with the subtlety of a sledgehammer and the writerly finesse of a 14-year-old's first attempt at fanfiction.

It was also pretty obvious what stereotype everyone was going to play from his or her very first appearance. There really isn't a multi-dimensional character in this book. I understand that the first-person voice is a limited perspective by its nature, and I would write it off as just that if the peripheral characters were the only flat archetypes, but even the narrator doesn't carry any convincing weight. Griet is the protagonist because she's the main character. And because all of the characters with whom she has scuffles are inexplicably bitchy. Not giving characters any real motivations, not making them behave and interact believably, and generally preferring to tell rather than show all contributed to making this whole book feel sloppy, underdeveloped and rushed. If "Girl with a Pearl Earring" was maybe 200 more pages of really hammering out the story and its players, maybe then it'd be a more satisfying read. At least it's mercifully quick and mostly painless at its current length.

I say "mostly painless" because there are some groan-worthy lines showcased here: While more pages would have maybe benefited the plot, there is nothing -- save for a control-freak editor -- that could have improved the prose itself. I could not get past the clunky writing. It didn't take me long to get violently annoyed by the author's fondness for hitting the reader over the head with the most obvious attempts at subtle foreshadowing by way of forcing too much weight on these flimsy, laughably ominous one-sentence paragraphs. There were numerous other technical things that kept grating on me about the writing and its myriad shortcomings. Among them: Griet saying things like "I always regretted that decision" to indicate that she's looking back on a time that is very clearly written as the present; not one character shows any development throughout the novel; sixteen-year-old Griet, the daughter of a tile painter, somehow knows more about painting and composition than Vermeer, a professional artist who actually managed to garner some fame during his living years.

Even when the book pissed me off (which was often), I will admit that I never found Griet herself to be irritating (maybe because I kept fantasizing about Scarlett Johansson to save my brain from oozing through my ears?) -- but I was irked at how it felt like Chevalier was Mary Sue-ing her way through the character. The way that every man whom Griet encountered in the whole! damn! book! fawned over and flirted with her, the way she was presented as being uneducated but naturally clever just because she sometimes spoke her mind and separated her chopped veggies by color, the way Griet's family was painted as these simple, sheltered little Protestants who knew nothing of the world around them.... there was far too much black-or-white for me to take anything about the book seriously.

I don't care enough to write about this book any more. So. Every other gripe I have notwithstanding, here are three of the book's most glaring failures:

-- Vermeer, for being the central male character, remains an enigma. It's not that he's shrouded in an air of charming mystery but rather that his personality is nothing more than a bunch of suppositions that Griet "just knows" about him.

-- Griet does not ever refer to Vermeer as anything other than "he" or "him". Not. Once. It made her sound like a starstruck teenybopper and it undermined any sense of genuine affection between the painter and his maid.

-- The similes. Oh, dear sweet Baby Jesus, the similes. I now know that I have a limited tolerance for the number of trite comparisons of faces and voices to household objects that I encounter in one novel, all thanks to the time I spent reading this book.
Profile Image for Neale .
310 reviews144 followers
March 3, 2020
A reread. 4.5 Stars!

Griet had not been told that she is to become the painter Vermeer’s maid, her mother only revealing the job to her after the Vermeer’s had already been, inspected Griet, and left. Griet has no say in the matter. Her father was a tile painter before a tragic accident, in which a kiln explosion claimed his eyes and trade. The family who were already struggling, treading water, now find themselves slowly slipping beneath the surface.

Her father explains to Griet that she is to be a maid for the famous painter Vermeer. Cleaning his studio will be one of her main tasks. It is 1664, in the city of Delft, Holland. Griet has been brought up a protestant but the Vermeer’s are catholic and Griet wonders how life will change and what differences she will find in a Catholic household.

The first time she sees the painting that Vermeer is currently working on, she is struck with awe. She has never seen anything like it in her life before. On the Sunday that she has free and returns to spend with her family she describes the painting for her father.

These Sunday visits are soon taken from Griet as the area in which her family live is quarantined with word spreading that the plague has surfaced in the vicinity.

She finds out from Pieter, the son of the butcher where she purchases the meat, that her parents are well but that her sister Agnes has taken ill. Pieter is a cheerful gregarious chap and falls for Griet. He does not hide his feelings and makes his intentions known to Griet. Griet tells him that she is only seventeen and has no feelings for him, however this does not dissuade Pieter.

Griet’s parents decide, with Pieter being the son of a butcher, that he is a good match for Griet and invite him for dinner. Griet feels that she is helping the family by playing her role in securing their future, and a marriage could lead them out of penury. However, she is doing this out of family duty and harbours no feelings for Pieter other than friendship.

One day Pieter tells Griet that Vermeer had a child with one of the maids in his painting. Alarmingly she asks him what happened to the maid. He answers her with, “What happens to girls like that?”.

Before the quarantine is lifted Griet receives the terrible news that her sister has passed. Griet is grief-stricken.

At first Griet barely sees Vermeer. He is nearly always locked away in his studio studiously painting.
One morning the baker’s daughter is ill and Vermeer asks Griet to stand in for her in a painting he is working on. From this day on, Griet and Vermeer grow closer. Vermeer starts showing Griet how a painting is created from scratch. Griet, is utterly entranced. She has never seen a painting being painted, never met a master painter before. Her feelings start to grow stronger for Vermeer with each passing day. Griet shows an unusual talent for colour and arrangement and Vermeer is quietly surprised and happy.

Vermeer then teaches her how to mix paints but as she grows closer to Vermeer, she becomes aware that all this can be taken away from her in an instant. Vermeer’s wife knows nothing of this work Griet is doing for him.

Griet becomes used to this new way of life and it is not until Maertge, the eldest daughter, tells her that she is going to be moved from the attic, where she mixes the paints, back to the cellar, that she realises what she will be missing.

“I slowed my pace. Years of hauling water, wringing out clothes, scrubbing floors, emptying chamberpots, with no chance of beauty or colour or light in my life, stretched before me like a landscape of flat land, where a long way off the sea is visible but can never be reached. If I could not work with the colours, if I could not be near him, I did not know how I could continue to work in that house”.

While Griet has been working at the Vermeer’s household she has picked up an unwarranted admirer. A powerful, and rich admirer. He is Vermeer’s patron van Ruijven and he has his eyes set on Griet.

Although Vermeer is a famous painter, the household is in debt. Vermeer’s extreme slowness in painting leaves him with only a few paintings to sell each year. So, when his patron van Ruijven requests that he paint Griet, Vermeer has little choice but to comply.

Griet is trapped, she does not want to sit for the painting, but Pieter sums up her situation in a sentence,

“But you have little power of what happens to you”.

The painting of Griet has an almost pornographic taboo feel to it. It feels as if lines have been crossed and that boundaries have been broken.

There is no illusion that Griet thinks she is in love with Vermeer. Griet is seventeen and naïve, apart from Pieter she has never been courted by a man and is blithely unaware of her beauty. When Vermeer sees Griet with her hair down, freed from the cap that has always remained on her head. He realises that he may be falling in love himself. There is always a sexual tension, almost like a charge of electricity, between the two. But will this tension result in action? And if the two do engage in a clandestine affair whare does that leave Griet? What hope is there for her? She is placed in an impossible situation with no positive outcome in sight.

This novel makes the reader think about the relationship between master and servant. How Griet, only seventeen and very naïve, is caught up in the grey area that exists between the two roles. She sways back and forth like a ship in a storm, one minute reminded of her humble life while working on the household tasks, then a completely different world, mixing colours and helping Vermeer with his painting. Griet’s place in the Vermeer household is never secure, she seems to be always teetering of the verge of being thrown out with Vermeer himself the only tether keeping her safe.

How is Griet going to get herself out of this situation, and is she more than just the naïve country maid that everybody thinks she is?

This was a reread for me and it has lost nothing in the years since I read it. Not much is known about Vermeer during these years, so Chevalier had a great deal of license to play around with, and she has done a wonderful job, creating a believable and enjoyable novel. 4.5 Stars.
Profile Image for Ivana - Diary of Difference.
567 reviews733 followers
December 25, 2022
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

I have read this book so many times. And even after re-reading this book so many times, it is and will always remain one of my favourite books, a story that is evergreen and has such an emotional story worth retelling.

Tracy Chevalier has been inspired by the artwork of Johannes Vermeer, and his most famous painting, the Girl with a Pearl Earring, that she decided to write a story of what she believes might have happened behind that painting. For me, when looking at paintings, this is one of the things that cross my mind – what is the actual story behind it, what was the relationship between the painter and the people on the painting, what were they all thinking and what did their lives look like… In this book, we are able to enter this world, where we see a story of what might have happened here, and this story is a wonderful experience.

This is a story about Griet’s life. Griet lives in a house with her poor family, a blind dad who worked all his life to gather a bit of money for them, and a mother that always fought for the family. With their money running low, Griet has to go and work as a maid in the house of Vermeer, who is a famous painter. Even though quite young, Griet quickly knows her tasks, to iron, to cook, to grab groceries from the market, and the most important bit – to stay out of everyone’s way and do her job.

In the house, things are not easy. Griet is not treated with respect, her family is worried about her, the plague kills her sister and the butcher’s boy wants to marry her. Griet doesn’t feel anything for this boy, but having meat on the table every day for her and her family is too big of an advantage to be just thrown away. I personally never liked the butcher boy, because he knew very well what his advantage was, and he kept reminding Griet how she depends on him to feed her family.

‘’Her words surprised me, but when I looked in her eyes and saw there the hunger for meat that a butcher’s son could provide, I understood why she had set aside her pride.’’

But Griet has a secret crush on Mr. Vermeer, and a great admiration for his work. And Mr. Vermeer notices Griet’s curiosity and gives her tasks around the studio, which in the end, results in him painting her. Griet gets to be involved in his world, learning what he does, and working for him in secret, while his wife is bearing another child of his. Even though Griet secretly feels like she is betraying the wife, she can’t help but feel joj when Vermeer pays attention to her.

‘’ The clothes soaking in the kitchen went cold, the water grey. Tanneke clattered in the kitchen, the girls shouted outside, and we behind closed door sat and looked at each other. And he painted.’’

Now, in the 21st century, it is normal for ladies to pose, and be painted, but in that time, it was a disgrace for a maid to be painted. Men didn’t have the respect towards women as they do now (some of them). And when Griet finds herself being painted, she knows the consequences, but as a maid, she has no voice to object. She knows this quite well.

In the end, the story is very powerful and heartwarming. While we read about how Griet sees and thinks, we will start to love her, watch her grow, and learn so much. I am forever grateful I have found this book.

I have read the 20th Anniversary Edition of this amazing book, which was kindly sent to me by the publishers, The Borough Press, and Love Reading UK, in exchange for my honest review.

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,257 followers
December 9, 2014

The popular fame obtained by this book and its subsequent movie version starring Scarlett Johansson...

*two hours later*

(Sorry, I was daydreaming)...had me expecting a tumultuous romance, a grab-ya and hold-ya reading experience. But this...I don't know what this was, but it wasn't exciting in the least.

Girl With a Pearl Earring is about a maid, who becomes a model, who gets her picture painted and attracts the notice of a few men. The painter is famous, so that's interesting. His patron is rich, of course, and expects to get what he wants, so there's your villain...kind of.

Really, our protagonist's main enemy is jealousy. But that enemy's effectiveness is quashed by another force: money. And that leaves us with a less dramatically, emotionally affecting book.

I read through to the end, expecting something bigger to happen the whole way, but even though it never did, I did still manage to get through it all, so there's something to be said for that.

In the end, however, this book has to say about as much as does a picture of a beautiful woman. Not much.

In related news...
My overly sensitive and irrational wife would like me to take down my Johansson picture collage homage from the ceiling over our bed. But as I've explained, ScarJo needs the support of her #1 fan!


Profile Image for Debbie W..
763 reviews572 followers
November 17, 2022
Why I chose to read this book:
1. a GR friend's review encouraged me to add this book to my WTR list;
2. since I recently read a different HF with a Dutch setting, this book went right up to the top of my list; and,
3. September 2022 is "Historical Fiction Month" for me.

Praise (only one!):
Another story based on a piece of artwork (think A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline)! Author Tracy Chevalier's research effectively took me back in time to the Dutch Golden Age of the 1600s. I felt like I was living along the streets and canals of Delft, Holland, seeing the tile makers working at their kilns, and meeting famed artist, Johannes Vermeer as well as other notable Dutchmen. The view of the art world, including famous paintings, visualizing colors in various objects, and learning about the intriguing methods for making paint were all vividly described.

Why do authors insist on using the trope of making the wife such a b*tch in order for the reader to rally behind the "innocent" poor girl?
In this story, fictional MC, Griet, because of her attention to detail, is hired to assist Vermeer by cleaning his studio, among other household chores. It may surprise many readers, but I had more empathy for Vermeer's wife, Catharina, than I did for that young upstart! First of all, Griet comes across as pretty "high-falutin'" for an uneducated maid, not only in her speech, but she even makes suggestions to Vermeer on how he should paint a scene! But because of all the weird "secrecy", I could clearly imagine what was going through Catharina's mind when she saw that painting! Besides the rage at seeing her earring in this girl's ear, the idea of "Just what the h*ll was going on between my husband and her?" would be first and foremost in her thoughts. Griet was constantly imagining that Vermeer had the hots for her, so I had to laugh when she thinks that Catharina distrusts her "for no particular reason"! Ha! Call it women's intuition, because ALL the women didn't like her (yet ALL the men are infatuated with her.) And what was up with her being so afraid to show her hair? I expected something heartbreaking, but nope! She just has long, luxurious hair. Whoopee!
Overall, Griet's actions and reactions to various characters and situations were not only unlikable, but so over-the-top unbelievable!
And as for Vermeer's character - he is such an enigma! Although I saw glimpses of his artistic vision, I would have liked his character to be more fleshed out.

Overall Thoughts:
Chevalier chose an interesting premise by creating a story about this so-called "Dutch Mona Lisa". Her graphic descriptions of 17th century Delft, Holland were so lifelike. I only wish her "stock" characters were true to life as well.
I was really hoping to love this story!
Two ⭐⭐ = okay read = I'll be donating this to my library's book sale!

Read this book if you like:
- light historical fiction;
- artistic creations using color and light; and/or,
- young things chasing after your man!
Profile Image for ij.
215 reviews177 followers
January 8, 2014
Girl with a Pearl Earring

Tracy Chevalier

Plume, 2001

The “Girl with a Pearl Earring” is a painting done by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, around 1665. Not much is known about Vermeer which gives Chevalier creative license to develop what I believe is an interesting story. The painting is currently on exhibition in New York, at the Frick Collection. The exhibition is scheduled to be there until January 19, 2014.

The story told in first person by Griet the protagonist starts in Delft (South Holland), in 1664, when she was sixteen (16). Griet is the daughter of a tile painter who has recently lost his sight. Griet parents hired her out as a maid to the Vermeer family. Griet was expected to help out her family by bringing home the fruits of her labor. In the first few pages of the book there is considerable change in this family. The father has lost his sight, her brother Frans (thirteen (13)) has left home to start an apprenticeship, now Griet is leaving home to work. Her younger sister Agnes is upset because she will be without both siblings. Griet is concerned because her family is Protestant and while the Vermeer’s are Catholic.

When the Vermeers visits Griet’s house to determine her suitability for the job as maid they each looked at her differently. Catharina, Vermeer’s wife was concerned about Griet’s physical ability to perform the job while Vermeer noted how she had laid out the vegetable she was cutting up for a stew separating them by color, in a circular pattern.

The Vermeers have five (5) children with one on the way. Vermeer’s mother-in-law, Maria Thins, also lives in the house. There are a couple of other servants who assisted in running the household, which gave room for more conflicts in the story. Griet’s main job is doing the laundry and cleaning Vermeer’s studio, but, she also helps with the kitchen and taking care of the children. Griet was challenged by many conflicts primarily with Catharina, Cornelia (one of the children), and Tanneke (a long term servant). She also has to fight off Vermeer’s patron, van Ruijven. He is married but has a reputation for chasing young maids.

Griet later took on more responsibility which included purchasing food for the family. She noted that the Vermeer family use Pieter for their butcher. She was to shop for the family daily and purchase the meat for the day. Pieter had a son who showed interest in Griet, which was at first not returned.

Griet showed interest in Vermeer’s painting and asked him questions which he seemed to encourage. He later showed her how he made his colors for his paintings. Griet later became the subject of a portrait which he was commissioned by van Ruijven to paint.

I think the author struggled at times to write as a sixteen (16) year old would think. However, I enjoyed the book.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,947 reviews611 followers
September 16, 2022
Vermeer's famous painting, The Girl with a Pearl Earring, is an opportunity for Tracy Chevalier to imagine a special relationship between the painter and Griet, a young and pretty servant committed to the family's service. But unfortunately, proximity could make one think that the young servant served as a model for the painter of the painting, arousing Vermeer's wife's jealousy and causing a scandal in the Delft of the 17th century.
Well captured the painter's universe and the Dutch society of his time; despite everything, I agree with this story. The one who nicknamed the "Sphinx of Delft", as his biography long remained obscure, and who painted only thirty-four pictures, some of which have become among the most famous in the history of painting, deserved better than this romance. However, Griet is not Tess d'Urberville, and Tracy Chevalier is not Thomas Hardy.
Profile Image for Shaya.
250 reviews324 followers
May 14, 2021
این کتابو دوست داشتم نه بخاطریوهان ورمر یا گرییت، بلکه بخاطر اینکه اطلاعات جالبی از قرن هفدهم هلند فهمیدم. اینکه مرئم زندگیشون چطور بوده، چطور فکر میکردن و صد البته بخاطر اینکه کم و بیش اطلاعاتی در مورد نقاشی و تابلوهای یوهان ورمر میداد.

واسم جالب بود که خیلی من این نقاشی رو دیده بودم ولی هیچ کنجکاوی بابتش نکرده بودم، بعد خوندن این کتاب در مورد این نقاشی کلی سرچ کردم و چیزای خیلی جالبی فهمیدم. یه فیلمم هست با این اسم اونم دانلود کردم هنوز ندیدمش ولی :دی

ولی سوال مهم اینه: عشق اونا دو طرفه بود یا یک طرفه؟
Profile Image for da AL.
371 reviews373 followers
September 16, 2018
Beautifully written and read aloud, this is an imagining of the possible life of the girl depicted in Vermeer's lovely painting.
Profile Image for kian.
198 reviews51 followers
July 6, 2016
توی این داستان چیزی که خیلی موج میزد، «زندگی» بود.... یه ویژگی برجسته که این کتاب داشت این بود که به طرز ساده ای، روون بود... یعنی انگار نشستی روبروی راوی... اون داره برات ماجراهای زندگیش رو تعریف میکنه.... و به قدری صمیمی و پشت هم و ساده روایت میکنه که تو وقتی به خودت میای میبینی غرق در حرفهاش شدی و توی یه زمان خیلی کوتاه کل کتاب رو تموم کردی......... خیلی خودمونی از فقر ، خانواده، سختیها، دوریها، مرگ، عشق، و.... حرف میزد........ باید بگم دلم برای راوی میسوخت... یه غم خاصی بود تو زندگیش و نرسیدنهاش که تا آخر داستان باعث میشد قوی ترین حسی که تو من به وجود میاره اندوه باشه....

سبک نوشتن نویسنده هم دوست داشتنی بود... یه جاهایی بعضی جملاتش رو بارها و بارها میخوندم... یه دفعه حرفهای غریبی رو توی دهان راوی میگذاشت که خیلی با فکر و دل آدم بازی میکرد......

جمعا دوست داشتم کتاب رو... و اندوهش هنوز همراهمه..........

حکایت نرسیدن ها....

Profile Image for Richard (on hiatus).
160 reviews187 followers
April 27, 2018
An evocative look at life in Delft, Holland in the 1600’s. A quietly gripping tale of what might have been.
The story is a fictionalised account of the circumstances surrounding the painting of Vermeer’s masterpiece ‘Girl with a pearl earring’.
Griet, the central character, is a strong, honourable, modest and likeable character and the events that overtake her, because of the sensibilities of the age, are tense and exciting. The writing is smooth, exact and fluent.
I would often flick to the cover to look at the painting, adding extra life to this great novel.
Profile Image for Vanessa J..
347 reviews605 followers
March 11, 2016
Have you ever seen the painting Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer? No? Then, have a look at it:

Isn't it beautiful?

I hadn't seen it until a few months ago, in a class I was taking at the university called “film appreciation”. My professor wanted to show us the movie that goes by the name of this painting because he wanted to illustrate some concepts present in the movie and many other things. Well, at the end of the movie, in the credits (yes, I read the credits; besides, the music was amazing), it said “based on the novel by Tracy Chevalier”, so I told my self “why, it was based upon a book, therefore I should read it”, and that's why I decided to read it.

Girl with a Pearl Earring was an interesting book to read. First of all because it features a famous painter, Johannes Vermeer; secondly, because the story is narrated from their maid's point of view; and finally, because we get to see how society was back in the seventeenth century.

The story follows Griet, a young girl who gets a job as a maid in Vermeer's house. Since she first came to the house, she is hated by her mistress, Tanneke (the other maid) and Cornelia (one of the uncountable children Catharina had), but she gained something far more precious. She gained Vermeer's interest.

Our heroine –Griet— is one of those characters who develop in the course of the story. She starts from being completely innocent and shy, and grows from there. At the end, she's still innocent, but she has changed. She has a particular obsession in hiding her hair with a cap, because her not showing her hair makes her be herself. Without her cap, she is “one of those women”, and she is not like that.

Vermeer is great. I loved him and his dedication. I also loved his relationship with Griet. It's not a romance, mind you, but it was obvious he cared for her, and the same applied the other way round. His personality was very intriguing too: He was always so calm and isolated from the world, even when there were many people in the same room as him. It always felt as if he was alone, and I don't know, that made him stand out.

The writing is beautiful. Simply brilliant. You could feel as if you were present in 1600's Holland. The details were enough to please you, but they were not overwhelmingly enough to tire you. It was perfect.

I'm glad I gave this book a try, because it surely deserved my reading it. A good fast read that will remain with me. I hope someday, when I'm older, I cross paths with this book again, because I would want to re-read it eventually.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,081 reviews2,720 followers
February 23, 2016
This was a pleasant diversion. This novel about a pretty maid who appeared in one of Vermeer's paintings is easy to slip into, didn't ask much of me, and kept me entertained for a few days.

Is it great literature? No. Was it turned into a decent movie? Yes. Would I recommend the book? Depends. The plot skips along well enough, and I enjoyed how the author invented stories for some of Vermeer's famous paintings. My copy was a deluxe edition that included pictures of his artwork, which I appreciated. However, the writing is competent but forgettable, and I didn't find any exceptional quotes to share.

If you like light historical fiction or stories about artists, you may enjoy this. Or you could just watch the movie.
Profile Image for Maede.
288 reviews412 followers
June 18, 2023
این کتاب دقیقاً همون چیزی بود که نمی‌خواستم باشه
داستانی که «برای» یک‌ نقاشی نوشته شده
نه نقاشی‌ای که یک تصویر از داستانه

دختری با گوشواره مروا��ید نقاشی‌ای اثر نقاش معروف ورمیره که در قرن ۱۷ کشیده شده. این کتاب جوری نوشته شده که انگار به هر زوری هست می‌خواد داستانی برای اینکه دختر مرموز این نقاشی چطور به زندگی ورمیر وارد شده بنویسه

کاراکتر اصلی، گریت، از نظر من بسیار سرده. این باعث میشه که کل داستان که همراه با گریت پیش میره خشک و بی‌احساس باشه. حتی وقتی اتفاقات مهم یا تلخی می‌افته، انگار خواننده بیشتر از گریت تحت تاثیر قرار می‌گیره

ورمیر که «مثلا» دومین شخصیت مهمه، عملاً دو سوم داستان رو نیست! صحبت خاصی نداره چون خب کار خاصی نمی‌کنه. از شخصیت نچسب گریت بدتر، شخصیت تک‌بعدی ورمیره. اون فقط یک‌ نقاشه و انگار با محیط اطرافش ارتباط دیگه‌ای نداره

داستان اصلی پر از سوراخ و قسمت‌های رها شدست. تنها قسمت جالبش برای من تاریخی بودن فضای داستان بود. این باعث شد که در مو��د فضای اجتماعی و مذهبی اون زمان کمی مطالعه کنم و یاد بگیرم. اما در نهایت اون ستاره‌ی دوم کتاب برای تمام صحبت‌های جذابیه که به خاطر این کتاب در بوک‌کلاب داشتیم

کانال تلگرام ریویوها و دانلود کتاب‌ها
Maede's Books

Profile Image for Brittany McCann.
1,833 reviews427 followers
April 14, 2023
I loved Griet. It is easy to find her weak compared to today, but you must put yourself in her shoes. Tracy Chevalier does a phenomenal job of trying to make this happen for her reader.

I wanted to fight for Griet and protect her from her 16-year-old naivete through the age of 18 through the majority of the story. She faces problems on all sides, especially in terms of male persuasion. But Griet is not without allies, even if their hands are tied in many ways. I am sure that Griet's story is not so dissimilar from many young girls of this time period, and I can completely understand her to need to take the only control she felt she had when all felt lost in the control of her own person,

It wasn't until after reading this that I realized how much creative liberty Chevalier took from this painting and the created story behind it. Girl with a Pearl Earring is based on a painting of the same name painted by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, sometime around 1665. Chevalier decided to give a story to this girl where one was lacking, and it was well done. It is hard to know who this girl really was, but Chevalier did a fair amount of research into the time and location. Interestingly, she decided to go with Griet rather than a woman of higher standing. I wonder what a story would be if this were about a lady of a house instead.

Overall, this was very well written, and the story wove its way into my mind.

4.5 stars rounded up to 5.
October 20, 2020
My birthday gift from a friend, rare happened because very tricky to buy a book for someone else, but I know why she did. GIRL WITH PEARL EARRING is a beautiful story, engaging, well-drawn characters, art and historically interesting.
The story is about one painting, a young girl who forces to works as a maid in Johannes Vermeer's house (1632-1675), a Dutch painter. I think this book is more than a love story, the only reason I give 4.5 is the end of it, but it is not disappointing after all. My friend knew that I would enjoy it a lot. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :) .
1,025 reviews2,976 followers
January 7, 2019
Story of a girl who goes to work as a maid in the Vermeer household. She is entranced with his paintings and also with his "mystique". His wife is jealous of Greit's beautify immediately. Vermeer's patron, a sleazy, domineering man, eventually orders Vermeer to paint a picture of Greit for himself.

The portrait is done. Greit enjoys sitting for her Master and also assisting him with mixing paints, etc. She begins to feel affection for him and thinks he feels the same.

There is also a "butcher's" son who is in love with her and she eventually marries him. In the end Vermeer's wife orders Greit out of the house when she discovers the portrait.

I enjoyed the book but had hoped there would be a more substantial and fulfilling ending. Fans of Vermeer and historical fiction will enjoy this book. I love the actual painting itself and have a small copy of it in my home.
Profile Image for Kelly.
889 reviews4,129 followers
January 18, 2014
I wrote a paper on artistic expression using Girl with a Pearl Earring as a source, since it is a painting, a movie, and a book. It provided me fascinating fodder, a really good read, and a good grade on my paper. This is a wonderful study in repression and tiny details. There are some beautiful passages. I absolutely love the study done of the character of Vermeer. At one point, a character tells Griet (the imagined Girl with a Pearl Earring) to be careful, since Vermeer does not see her, but rather the painting that she will make. The artist sees the world only as paintings, not as people. This is shown as incredibly selfish. He loves only those things that fit into his sense of light and shape and color and tone. He has no interest in that which does not add to his work.

And it is for one reason only I will say that the movie was better than the book: that we are able to see his imaginings in front of him, rather than have them described. The movie was an endless series of portraits in motion, and a huge motif and focus on Vermeer's eyes. Colin Firth is known for his ability to play the quiet loner (see: Mr. Darcy) and it's brilliantly done here. Well cast, director. Well shot. It's one of my favorite movies. I do warn that it is incredibly quiet and intimate, and not a lot happens. Many people may be bored by it. But I think if you read this book in the first place you're the kind of person to like the movie.
10 reviews3 followers
January 11, 2008
This book features one of my favorite book heroines of all time. Griet is competent, intelligent and observant. She possesses the laudable ability to maneuver 17th century Delft in a shrewd and practical manner while still retaining her love of art; finding beauty in even mundane things.

Griet has a first-rate mind, concealed in the body of - essentially - a peasant. This poor maid is the only person who truly understands Vermeer's work. The relationship she develops with the painter is satisfyingly subtle; a nuanced understanding which never falls into the trap of passionate declarations or overwrought pining. In fact, the thing I like about Griet the most is that she never even flirts with self-pity or self aggrandizement. She knows who she is.

This book is the most successful(and in my opinion the best)of Tracy Chevalier's fictional works, which focus on the lives connected to the production of famous works of art. I do not recommend the movie, however. Scarlett Johanssen plays Griet like someone not used to housework, Colin Firth's Vermeer obtusely has puppy dog eyes for Scarlett, and Cillian Murphy is just too Metro to be believed.
Profile Image for Mahdi Lotfi.
447 reviews105 followers
December 7, 2017
این کتاب نوشته تریسی شوالیه (Tracy Chevalier) نویسنده فرانسوی- سوئیسی است که این کتاب را در امریکا و به عنوان دومین اثرش منتشر کرد و با استقبال زیاد مخاطبین و منتقدین مواجه شد. این رمان در تلاش است که با تکیه بر آثار نقاشی یوهانس ورمر (Johannes Vermeer) ، نقاش هلندی 1675-1632، و جمع آوری اطلاعات تاریخی درباره شرایط اجتماعی زندگی در هلند قرن هفدهم به بازسازی و یا بازتعریف زندگی ورمر بپردازد. محور اصلی این کتاب تابلوی دختری با گوشواره مروارید (Girl with Pearl Earring) است، که شوالیه دختر این تصویر را به عنوان راوی داستانش انتخاب می کند و با وی به درون زندگی شخصی و کاری ورمر سرک می کشد.
اکثر آثار ورمر پرتره هایی از طبقه معمولی و بورژوا در حین انجام کار یا زندگی روزمره اند. تنها اثر وی که هیچ توجهی به حرفه، مکان و زمان مدل ندارد تابلوی دختری با گوشواره مروارید است. این تابلو که سال خلق آن بین سالهای 1675-1665 تخمین زده می شود با تکنیک رنگ روغن روی بوم نقاشی شده است و به خاطر زاویه مدیوم شات، لباس های خارج از عرف و تاحدی نامانوس، پس زمینه سیاه بدون درج و ثبت هرگونه وسیله، لوازم یا نشانه ای که به ما درباره این فرد و شرایطش آدرسی بدهد به شدت محل شک و حدس و گمانهای فراوان درباره هویت این مدل شده است. گمان ها برای شناسایی معمولا در سه فرد خلاصه شده است: ماریا ورمر (دختر بزرگ یوهانس)، مدلینا ون روی ون (دختر دوست و حامی یوهانس ورمر) و مدل گمنامی که در خانه ورمر به عنوان پیشخدمت کار می کرد. شوالیه با گمان سوم جلو می رود.
در روایت شخصی شوالیه از این تابلو، این دختر، گری یت است؛ دختر یک کاشی ساز فقیر که برای کار و کمک مالی به خانواده اش به عنوان پیشخدمت به خانه ورمر نقاش می رود. وظیفه او علاوه بر انجام کارهای روزمره عادی نظیر شستن، اتو کردن، خرید و... تمیز کردن آتلیه نقاشی ورمر است. گری یت از 16 تا 18 سالگی در خانه ورمر کار می کند و در همان نگاه اول به ورمر دل می بندد و در خیال نوجوانانه خویش ورمر را هم دلبسته خود می پندارد.
این کتاب درباره ی تابلویی به همین نام که توسط یان ورمر کشیده شده و در حال حاضر در موزه ی ماوریتس هویس لاهه(هلند) نگهداری می شود نوشته شده . این تابلوی زیبا بر خلاف بیشتر آثار ورمر و دیگر نقاشان دوران خودش ظاهری مرموز دارد. تصاویر کلاسیک و رئال آن دوران یا تصویری از طبیعت و شهرها هستند و یا حالات انسانی و جو آن زمان را منتقل می کنند . مثل زنی که در حال ریختن شیر در کاسه است . گروهی که موسیقی می نوازند . مجالس و جشن های اشرافی و مردمی و صحنه هایی دیگر به همین سبک . با این حال دختری تنها و جوان در یک تابلو با زمینه ی کاملا خالی و سیاه می تواند متمایز از بقیه باشد . ما نمی توانیم بفهمیم که این دختر با این نگاه نافذ و لباسی که چندان عادی و رایج نبوده فقیر است یا اشراف زاده ؟ شاد است یا غمگین؟ به چه فکر می کند ؟ و یا کجاست ؟
1 review8 followers
April 10, 2008
I've been hearing good things about this book for years. WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM, everyone I know?? I found the prose artificially concise (as if she had purposely limited her vocabulary by a factor of ten, or as if the narrator was Dutch but just learning English), the characters completely flat and unbelievable, and the rise in drama both ill-explained and uninteresting. I did not like or feel compassionate toward a single character, I didn't feel any catharsis about ANYTHING, and I understood nary a motivation. Chevalier set up the Vermeer household as a jealous, gossipy, backstabbing mess, yes -- but she shouldn't have expected that to explain why the main character felt she'd "be ruined" if the lady of the house found out that she was excelling at her job. And also, good god, please don't over-explain every single metaphor, image, and implication. "The butcher said one thing, but I think he may have been implying another -- something I was meant to catch onto. I just wonder what it could be! Oh, perhaps..." just doesn't sit so well with me. I understand what the butcher said. If the narrator is as unflinchingly, humorlessly intelligent and perceptive as she is made out to be, she understands too. This is literature-lite. I kept turning the pages, and I did enjoy the time spent on my butt, eating cookie dough, with the book in my lap -- but the awkward prose never let me engage with the story enough to stop criticizing it.
Profile Image for Helen 2.0.
413 reviews919 followers
June 2, 2016
Girl With a Pearl Earring tells a short story using a lot of words. Even though the novel spans more than a decade, not too much of note happens besides Vermeer's painting. The book is more like an historical account of an ordinary life with occasional excitement sprinkled in.
I got a little bored at times. I thought Tracy Chevalier spent too much time describing commonplace objects and scenes (washing clothes, dusting, shopping) and not enough time giving insight on Griet's character and the household drama. However I was never so bored that I considered DNFing this book. The plot was always moving forward, even if it was subtle.

I adored the author's prose. She liked comparing intangible concepts to tangible objects. For example:
"I could hear rich carpets in their voices, books and pearls and fur."
Those similes and metaphors were very well done.

Tracy Chevalier did a wonderful job of centering the story around Vermeer by only ever referring to him with pronouns. Griet would think of Vermeer solely as "he" (or very rarely "my master", but never his name) and it gave the impression that Vermeer was the only man in the world to Griet.
"I did not mind the cold so much when he was there. When he stood close to me I could feel the warmth of his body."

The author never outright stated Griet's feelings for Vermeer in the book, but made them clear through occasional hints:
"I did not like to think of him that way, with his wife and children. I preferred to think of him alone in his studio. Or not alone, but only with me."

There were many aspects of Girl With a Pearl Earring that the reader had to infer from hints. It wasn't an easy read but still a very good one.
Profile Image for Emily Coffee and Commentary.
474 reviews156 followers
November 4, 2022
I loved that this novel brought forth an explanation for one of history’s most iconic paintings. Well written and imaginative, but also down to earth and very believable. I only wish the the ending was not so abrupt, the aftermath of events could have been explored in an interesting way. Nonetheless it was an enjoyable read for any art lover.
Profile Image for Katie Lumsden.
Author 2 books2,964 followers
November 3, 2017
An utter joy to read. Really engaging, historically interesting, with strong characterisation and beautiful writing. I will definitely be picking up more by her!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 12,088 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.