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Girl in Hyacinth Blue
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Girl in Hyacinth Blue

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  36,690 ratings  ·  1,838 reviews
A professor invites a colleague from the art department to his home to view a painting he has kept secret for decades in Susan Vreeland's powerful historical novel, Girl in Hyacinth Blue. The professor swears it's a Vermeer -- but why exactly has he kept it hidden so long? The reasons unfold in a gripping sequence of stories that trace ownership of the work back to ...more
Paperback, 242 pages
Published October 1st 2000 by Penguin Books (first published 1999)
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Claude Forthomme I think you still haven't got the answer to your question: what is the literary device used in this book? Well, basically, this is a collection of…moreI think you still haven't got the answer to your question: what is the literary device used in this book? Well, basically, this is a collection of short stories all inspired by one (hypothetical) painting. So the device is this: set up a painting (by a famous painter in this case, but it really could have been any painting or any object for that matter), and string together a set of stories concerning it.

In this case, Vreeland picked a famous artist (Vermeer) but she invented the painting; and she arranged her stories in inverted chronological order (i.e. starting with present day in the US) with respect to the (hypothetical) date and circumstances in which the painting was made (the 1600s in Holland).

Hope it helps!(less)

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Jeffrey Keeten
Aug 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-dutch
”She thought of all the people in all the paintings she had seen that day, not just Father’s, in all the paintings of the world, in fact. Their eyes, the particular turn of a head, their loneliness or suffering or grief was borrowed by an artist to be seen by other people throughout the years who would never see them face to face. People who would be that close to her, she thought, a matter of a few arms’ lengths, looking, looking, and they would never know her.”

 photo Vermeer_zps4fed97f2.jpg
Johannes Vermeer self-portrait
...more
Duane
Oct 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Art lovers will probably enjoy this book. Historical fiction, art and art history, good writing, combined for a good read. I've read several of her books and this may be my favorite. I would compare it to Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Laura
Jan 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Chrissie, Jeannette is next
Just arrived from Italy, kindly sent by Hayes, through BM.


This book is a collection of 8 short stories describing the story of Vermeer, the famous 17th century Dutch painter. A splendid and delightful book.

1. Love enough
2. Night different from all other nights
3. Adagia
4. Hyacinth blues

Girl in Hyacinth Blue


5. Morningshine --
6. From the personal papers of Adriaan Kuypers --
7. Still life --

The Little Street


The View of Delft


Girl Reading a Letter by an open window


The Milkmaid


Christ in the House of
...more
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
This is a story of a Vermeer painting, beginning with it's present owner and tracing back through about five owners and finally to the artist while painting the picture.

This was a great read. very original and interesting. I loved the strong characters in this little book, I've read it at least twice.

The prose was well written and flowed beautifully from story to story. Just a wonderful book.

Recommend for all fans of beautifully written historical fiction
Lisa
Jul 31, 2007 rated it really liked it
Girl in Hyacinth Blue tells the story of a painting by the Dutch painter Vermeer, as it passes from one owner to another. Interestingly, the story is told in reverse chronological order, beginning with the math teacher who, at present time, hides the painting in his home, to the girl in the painting and her wishes to become an artist herself. I thought the book kept getting better and better as it travels back in history to reveal the effects the painting had on each owner. They all find some ...more
[Shai] Bibliophage
I bought this book around 2008 to 2010. I just stored it in my box of books and never even bother to read it. Then I found this while I was sorting box recently. I never expected that I was deeply engrossed in the stories most especially Morningshine, From the Personal Papers of Adriaan Kuypers and Still Life. This is one of those books that is a page-turner and you'll still definitely love to read after several years have passed.
Book Concierge
A previously "undiscovered" Vermeer is revealed and the author traces its ownership back in time to its origination. Each owner (or custodian) has a slightly different reason for wanting to keep the painting, and different reasons for letting it go. Each time it changes hands, the owner is pained to part with it. And still, for everyone it represents longing and wishes unfulfilled.

Susan Vreeland
This entry will be out of the ordinary. I wrote GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE,and somehow it appeared in the wrong place on Goodreads. I can't seem to remove it, so I might as well supply a review.

NEW YORK TIMES
December 19, 1999
Picture This: A novel of a haunting painting and its effect on a succession of owners over three centuries.
Girl in Hyacinth Blue, by Susan Vreeland
by Katy Emck
Susan Vreeland's second novel, "Girl in Hyacinth Blue," may be a book about a painting, but it is never content with
...more
Hayes
May 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Brazilliant Laura is next
I liked this gentle story very much. We follow an imaginary painting back in time. We first see it hanging on the wall in a Math teacher’s house. The teacher is enigmatic and strange, and his story reveals the shady nature of the "acquisition" of this painting by his father in Amsterdam. And we don’t know: is it, or is it not by the Master Jan Vermeer?

We are taken slowly back in time, until we arrive at the moment that the painting was created, first in the mind of the artist and then on
...more
Wyndy
This book has been on my shelf for years, so I randomly picked it up with low expectations, looking for something calm, easy and historical, and was immediately drawn in to author Susan Vreeland’s imaginary tale of a 17th century Dutch painting, assumed to be the work of master Johannes Vermeer, and its journey through the centuries. ‘Girl In Hyacinth Blue’ is a series of tightly interwoven short stories that make a complete novel. Each story is its own time capsule, taking us backward through ...more
Carol
Aug 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: vermeer
Great read! Vreeland writes several short stories of a lost Vermeer painting and the people whose lives it touched. The stories are told from the present to long ago, back in time. This lost painting is a portrait of a young woman looking out a window, lost in thought, brilliantly clothed in hyacinth blues. The stories contain exquisite visual descriptions of his artwork and the everyday lives of ordinary women. I loved how Vreeland described color and how his paintings contained the "dust of ...more
Celia
Susan Vreeland loved to write historical fiction about art. I LOVE to read historical fiction about art. What a match!!

I did not know what to expect from this book with stories written about a fictional Dutch painting from the 1600's. A very pleasant surprise indeed.

The story starts in the present day where a professor swears he has a Vermeer. No provenance that proves it. He just KNOWS!!

The rest of the chapters describe where the painting has been and its origin. I LOVED this story telling. And
...more
Rachael
Jan 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I've owned it for seven or eight years now, and I reread it every six months or so. It's a beautifully written series of brief chapter-sized vignettes recounting the history of a Vermeer painting, as told (in reverse chronological order) by all the people who have possessed the painting. The final stor(ies) are told by the painting's model, Vermeer's daughter. Each chapter also deals with the decision of each character to give up the painting for various reasons.

...more
Nancy
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a delightful story telling the journey of a painting presumably painted by the Dutch master Vermeer. It tells it's journey in reverse starting with it's present day owner who is a Math professor in Philadelphia and working it's way back to it's origins in The Netherlands where the daughter of the painter must relinquish her hold on it when her circumstances are dire.

We learn the stories of each person or family who has acquired the painting, their attachment to it and eventually how or
...more
Adriane Devries
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-clubbing
The Girl in Hyacinth Blue, by Susan Vreeland, was a well-written, thought provoking and inspiring book; but to tell you the truth, I probably would not have finished it if it weren’t for the fact that I was in a book club that keeps me accountable. It’s the perfect example of why I’m in this book club in the first place: to keep me reading things that challenge me a bit, rather than always the easy, thrilling Dan Brown or JK Rowling types.

I liked Girl in Hyacinth Blue, not only because it
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jul 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Suzanne
I recently read Girl with a Pearl Earring because I'm going to go see it at the High Museum in Atlanta, and another GoodReads friend turned me on to this book. Most of the chapters of this book were previously published individually, all telling bits of a story of another Vermeer painting. I loved how there was so much mystery to the painting, so many stories surrounding it, even if they were fiction, still an enjoyable read. Her descriptions of the landscape are also very vivid.

Little bits I
...more
Jeanette
I like the way this author writes. This is one of those books where an object is the main character, rather than a person. In this case, the object is a (fictional) Vermeer painting of a girl sitting and looking out the window with her sewing in her lap.
There are eight interconnected stories that follow the painting back through history to its various owners and how they came to own or sell the painting. Eventually it works back to Vermeer's creation of the painting.
My only complaint is that I
...more
Natasa
Dec 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was impressed with Vreeland’s superb research and storytelling talents. This was a wonderful book that is not only an excellent work of historical fiction but also presents an intriguing mystery that makes for an enjoyable read.
Jaksen
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent book...

I picked this little book up at a 'nature' site on Cape Cod, a location where there are gardens and flowers for sale, and a little house where home-made jams and jellies are made. I visit every year and buy hand-made bars of soap, visit the bees in the bee hive, maybe buy a funny fake snake or two. This year they had a few used books for sale and the title of this book...I couldn't resist!

It's the story of a painting, and its 'provenance' back through time. Who owned it, when
...more
Sheri
Feb 12, 2016 rated it liked it
I was not impressed. This is simply a collection of short stories that are all sort of connected by this painting. Occasionally the stories are linked (the last guy is guilty over his Nazi father's theft of the painting from a Jewish family and the 2nd owner gets it along with a baby whose origins are explained in the next story), but more often than not the current story protagonist simply got the painting at an auction. The idea is cute (how things travel down through time without their ...more
Sun
Jul 15, 2009 rated it liked it
This is one of the better novels inspired by the paintings of Vermeer. I say that because I've recently read 4 of them:

Tracey Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring was undoubtedly the best of them, with a solid plotline, populated by recognisable characters and was sophisticated enough to involve thematic imagery.

This is followed by Susan Vreeland's Girl in Hyacinth Blue. The writing is good in this but the book is not so much a novel but a series of short stories that are linked by one Vermeer
...more
Sanja_Sanjalica
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-own
4.5 Half a point less for interrupting some of my favorite storylines just when I got into them. Still, a wonderful story of an imaginary painting, but actually a story about humanity, art and different perspectives. A great idea and an interesting style. Really made me think ponder about art and human obsession with beauty and inconsistency of life.
Kate Forsyth
Jun 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
One of my all-time favourite books by one of my all-time favourite authors, GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE tells the story of a painting in a series of interlinked vignettes moving backwards in time.

The first is set in contemporary times, telling the story of a middle-aged man who has in his possession an extraordinary painting of a young girl which he believes is a lost Vermeer. He cannot prove it, however, for the painting has no provenance. And he cannot show it to any specialists, because the
...more
Kathy Bowman
Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: just-for-fun
Am I the only one that found this book disappointing? This book traces the owners of a Vermeer painting backwards through time. The result is quite choppy, more like a set of short stories than a novel. I actually had a difficult time caring about the first several owners. Maybe I was tired, but I also had a difficult time tracing the painting's transfer of ownership until it came to the last few. I did enjoy the last several chapters more, but by then I felt it was too late.

In some ways, this
...more
Katie
Apr 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reading this made me remember how I love reading books about art. This novel tells the story of a painting thought to be a lost Vermeer in 8 stories going backward it time from the present through its various owners back to the story of the painter and the subject. I loved the structure and each story.
Deborah Ideiosepius
A very nicely written series of stories revolving around the central theme of a painting.

If this rating lacks the warmth nay even ecstasy of some other reviews I saw before acquiring it, this is due to a couple of factors that I, the reader brought to it rather than any inherent insufficiency of the book itself:

The first thing that rather set me back was that it is very much individual stories. Not interconnected stories even and certainly not 'a novel' as represented. As a fast reader, I find
...more
Sara
May 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: undecided
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dramatika
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
A collection of stories related to the painting by Vermeer.
Debbie
Apr 27, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm really not one for collections of short stories. I'm admittedly voracious in all things and that does not exclude my reading choices. I always feel short stories leave me still hungry for more. I'm frequently fond of saying, "I don't want a taste. That's just a tease. I want the whole thing." However, very rarely a book of short stories comes along which I find appropriate and satisfying. This is the case with Girl In Hyacinth Blue.

I've not read any of Susan Vreeland's books previously but
...more
Sarah Coller
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
I didn't love it but I didn't hate it. Things were a bit confusing at first until I figured out the rhythm of the book. Vreeland is writing on a timeline spanning hundreds of years but she begins at the end and works backwards. I did not like this method at all and was frustrated that there wasn't a clear changing of hands between time periods---it made it hard to see these as connected stories surrounding this one painting. Instead, it seemed like I was reading a disconnected collection of ...more
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Susan Vreeland is an internationally renowned best-selling author and four-time winner of the Theodor Geisel Award for Fiction, the San Diego Book Award’s highest honor. She is known for writing historical fiction on art-related themes, including Girl in Hyacinth Blue, The Passion of Artemisia, Luncheon of the Boating Party, and Clara and Mr. Tiffany. Her books have been translated into 26 ...more
“Everybody works . . . . That's what life is. Work and a little play and a lot of prayer.” 11 likes
“In the end, it's only the moments that we have, the kiss on the palm, the joint wonder at the furrowed texture of a fir trunk or at the infinitude of grains of sand in a dune. Only the moments.” 10 likes
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