Victor Davis's Reviews > Girl with a Pearl Earring

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
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Sep 05, 2017

really liked it
bookshelves: book-was-better
Read from August 13 to 21, 2017

I really enjoyed this book. The prose is simple, but the attention to detail, both historical accuracy and the novel's setting, are impressive. I don't know if the author fictionalized Vermeer herself, or if she bases her book on the detailed speculation of the art world, but the concept is perfect. Did women from the paintings "pearl earring" and "milkmaid" actually know each other and work together in the Vermeer household? How did painters, who spent months working on a single project, keep their workspace physically clean, down to the folds of fabrics, other than by hiring & training extremely diligent maids? Did the wife's earring on a common girl imply an illicit lust or love affair between artist and subject, and if so, did he paint her secretly? At night, perhaps, after her household chores were done; is that why the background is black?

Chevalier goes down this rabbit hole, creating an entire world surrounding the fabrication of this single work, from the first-person perspective of the girl. It helped me appreciate the emotional depth of the painting and why it's considered his best. The book is masterfully executed and she nails the ending, a difficult bar for fiction books to live up to.
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09/05/2017 marked as: read

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