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Group Read Discussions > August Group Discussion: Girl With A Pearl Earring

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message 1: by Becky, Moddess (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) | 3723 comments Mod
Here we go! :)

message 2: by Becky, Moddess (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) | 3723 comments Mod
The read doesn't officially start until the 15th, but what the hey? We're running this show so we can do what we want, right? :P

message 3: by Becky, Moddess (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) | 3723 comments Mod
Yeah... Well I started it... I didn't really expect people to wait, I just thought "Oh, someone might ask, so I should say something!"

message 4: by Kandice (new)

Kandice I have read this book only once, but it was recently, and I loved it! I liked that all the "illicitness" were things that we wouldn't feel were so very bad. That's one of my favorite things about historical fiction-adjusting my moral compass for the duration of the book.

Allison (The Allure of Books) (inconceivably) | 344 comments I read it when it first came out and thought it was boring, lol. I might have just been too young to appreciate it though.

message 6: by Kandice (new)

Kandice Nothing all that much happens in the story itself, I think I enjoyed it more for the actual writing, so yeah, if I had read it years ago, I may not have appreciated it. I ruined a lot of books for myself that way:(

message 7: by Misty (new)

Misty | 32 comments I remember flying through this and wanting to start reading it over again as soon as I was done. I have read most of her other stuff, and nothing else ever matched it. I've been wanting to read it again for awhile, so I will try to fit it in.

message 8: by Renee (new)

Renee (elenarenee) | 516 comments I loved this book I dont really want to do reread so I shall watch the beautiful movie made from it

message 9: by Vicki (new)

Vicki Great! I just checked this book out of the library... looking forward to reading it.

message 10: by Heidi (new)

Heidi  | 71 comments In this case, I had seen the movie on cable a few years back and I though it had some really wonderful moments and rich characterization (even if it wasn't much of a big hit), and GR reviews made me realize that I should read the book... so glad that I did... it is wonderfully written and I love how often Chevalier's characters have to make choices found in the "gray spaces" of life--- nothing is ever black or white-- when you step into her books, you literally feel like you've stepped back in time and I always have a better sense of how (women especially) difficult life was for her characters. Our contemporary world offers us such an array of choices-- choices which were much more limited in past eras and cultures.

Griet remains one of my favorite Chevalier characters-- can't wait to hear what others think.

message 11: by Kandice (new)

Kandice I haven't seen the movie, other than a preview before it came out. I wont have time to re-read with the group, so maybe I'll cheat and watch it.

JG (Introverted Reader) I have read most, if not all, of Tracy Chevalier's books and I don't think I've rated any of them higher than 3 stars. When I think of this book, I do think of beautiful images, but I just needed more plot. That's probably my biggest complaint about her.

message 13: by Jon (new)

Jon | 362 comments I wont be re-reading, in fact secretly releived ive read so can wait for the next group read! but highly recommend it, i read a couple of months a go and gave it 5 starts - it really transports you to that time and place and theres a feeling of dare i say it sexual tension building up through the book (though no actual smutt if you were waiting for some lol)

message 14: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer (jennifertudor) | 324 comments I've got this book on hold at my local second-hand bookstore. The owner is loving me since I joined Good Reads *wink*

message 15: by Jackie, That's Her Constableness to you! (new)

Jackie (thenightowl) | 2467 comments Mod
LOL...Jennifer that is the peril of GR- you find yourself visiting the bookstore and library more often than before.

I read this one a long time ago. What I remember of it was the writing and like Jon said the sexual tension built up throughout the book. Some parts I do remember finding boring but overall I thought it was pretty good.

message 16: by Vicki (new)

Vicki I just finished it. I enjoyed it!

message 17: by Jennifer (last edited Aug 17, 2009 09:28AM) (new)

Jennifer (jennifertudor) | 324 comments I finished it last night and loved it.

After reading any hf book I like to look up a bit of information of them to find out how much was fictional and how much was historical soI just looked up Vermeer's paintings and found an interesting website that I thought I'd share - http://www.essentialvermeer.com/.

One painting that I really enjoyed seeing was the Milkmaid and learning that Tanneke was really their milkmaid, which I can't figure out how to post here but can be found at http://www.essentialvermeer.com/catal...

I'll post the description here that goes with the painting but it contains mini-spoilers so beware if you haven't finished it yet :)

Critics have frequently speculated that the sitter for this painting was Tanneke Everpoel, Vermeer's family maid. Through archival documents of 1663, we know something of her temperament. She had once defended Vermeer's wife Catharina from an attack by her lone and wild tempered brother, Willem Bolnes which had occurred some years earlier.
The events were recorded in a notary public deposition of several people, Willem de Coorde, Gerrit Cornelisz., stone carver, and Tanneke herself who testified concerning Willem's abusive character. Tanneke and Gerrit the stone carver testified: "That on various occasions Willem Bolnes had created a violent commotion in the house -- to such an extent that many people gathered before the door -- as he swore at his mother, calling her an old popish swine, a she-devil, and other such ugly swear words that, for the sake of decency, must be passed over. She, Tanneke, also saw them thatBolnes had pulled a knife and tried to wound his mother with it. She declared further that Maria Thins had suffered so much violence from her son that she dared not go out of her room and was forced to have her food and drink brought the. Also that Bolnes committed similar violence from time to time against the daughter of Maria's, the wife of Johannes Vermeer, threatening to beat her on diverse occasions with a stick, notwithstanding the fact that she was pregnant to the last degree."
Luckily, on this occasion Tanneke was able to prevent some of this violence herself. Moreover, De Coorde declared that on several occasions, warned by Tanneke , he had blocked Bolnes from entering the house: "He also had seen Bolnes several times thrust at his sister with a stick at the end of which there was an iron pin."
Vermeer's mother-in-law, Maria Thins, eventually succeeded in having Willem Bolnes committed to a house of correction.

message 18: by Lostinfiction (new)

Lostinfiction | 6 comments I've read all the Chevalier books that I could find, but this one is still one of my faves!:) - definitely one that I could keep returning to.

message 19: by Kandice (new)

Kandice Thanks Jennifer. I looked up a lot after reading this book too, but never found that about Thins.

message 20: by Lostinfiction (last edited Aug 18, 2009 07:49PM) (new)

Lostinfiction | 6 comments That was really interesting to read, Jennifer! I had no idea about it. (By the way, reading through this thread has made me pick up the book again :) Just re-started it last night) Btw, about Tanneke - I had originally thought that she was much older - she struck me as a kind of rough, burly, grumpy woman. But then she mentions to Griet that she started working for Maria Thins at 14 and had been working there for half her life, which would only put her at 28. She looks a bit older than that in the Milkmaid painting too. Anyone else notice this?
On a different note, I was also interested to read that she cites Barbara Kingsolver as one of her strongest lit influences (see http://www.infloox.com/influence?id=8...) I've read Kingsolver and couldn't deal with her writing at all!

message 21: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer (jennifertudor) | 324 comments Lostinfiction - I did notice that she looked older as well. I think at some point Griet says that although she is 28 she looks much older due to all of her hard work aging her?

So glad that you both found it interesting :)

message 22: by Jon (new)

Jon | 362 comments Jennifer wrote: "I finished it last night and loved it.

After reading any hf book I like to look up a bit of information of them to find out how much was fictional and how much was historical soI just looked up..."

I must say i found it was a book that inspired googling too, i like that.. and i also found that same website. I scanned all the pictures to find the ones that were being discussed in the book - they are all there! so its fun to imagine the fictional story around them

message 23: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer (jennifertudor) | 324 comments Jon wrote: "Jennifer wrote: "I finished it last night and loved it.

After reading any hf book I like to look up a bit of information of them to find out how much was fictional and how much was historical soI..."

Isn't it a neat site? I love how interactive it is! I'm looking forward to having the proper amount of time to really go through it and look at everything. I was trying to find the painting that they described Vemeer painting of the man (the patron whose name I forget now) and the two women, his sister and daughter. Was that a fictional painting or did I just miss it on the website?

message 24: by Jon (new)

Jon | 362 comments i have such a vivid picture in my mind of that room and griet cleaning it and putting everything back where she finds it, carefully washing that window too

message 25: by Kandice (new)

Kandice That room really exists in my mind too! I was fascinated, after looking at all his paintings, how many of them really do take place in that room. Even more so that more than one woman wears the same clothes or jewelry in more than one painting. I can't imagine that in reality. Any woman would want her OWN beautiful things to distinguish her picture from others. Shows just how little, even the wealthy, actually had.

message 26: by Jon (new)

Jon | 362 comments yeah i was surprised by that too.. i guess it was vermeer that told most of them what to wear

message 27: by Kandice (new)

Kandice There's a poster in the library of the painting, but they've airbrushed Griet's mouth to look as if sh is smiling. It freaks me out. I am going to try to find a copy of it to post.

Allison (The Allure of Books) (inconceivably) | 344 comments goodness Heather! *fans face*


message 29: by Kandice (new)

Kandice Well, since we are being honest, I felt the same way. I know this was "based" on real events, so like Heather, felt a little guilty for waiting for them to "Do it already!", but I was. The tension was excellent.

*hangs head in shame*

Allison (The Allure of Books) (inconceivably) | 344 comments I read it forever ago so I can't remember :P but I bet if I did I'd jump on the lusty wagon too, lol.

message 31: by Misty (new)

Misty | 32 comments Heather wrote: "And the mixing of the paints was another image I saw so clearly."

That really stood out in my mind, too.

And Heather, I'm right there with you. I thought the tension in this book was brilliant, and I was looking forward to a little *ahem* consummation.

message 32: by Jon (new)

Jon | 362 comments yeah all unconsumated lustful thoughts lol ..

message 33: by Donna (new)

Donna | 49 comments I began rereading this last night and I am enjoying it as much as I did the first time.

I have always admired the work of Vermeer and I was very fortunate to see the special exhibit of a collection of most of his paintings at the National Gallery of Art in DC a number of years ago. They are amazing paintings.

Allison (The Allure of Books) (inconceivably) | 344 comments hey sorry Jon...had to delete your pics because it was locking people out :)

message 35: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer (jennifertudor) | 324 comments I'm another one Heather! I was waiting and waiting... I would have liked to have seen something more happen between them and I'm not sure why. I mean, I wouldn't want him to cheat on his wife and Griet did seem a bit young for him but I really wanted something to happen! I gave the book 4 stars instead of 5 and haven't been able to figure out what's been bugging me about the book. Now I know (Thanks Heather!).


What did everyone think about the sex scene between Griet and Pieter and the way she would let him touch her. I felt that a bit out of character for her, someone who was so proper that she couldn't even let her hair out for her master whom she would do anything for. I know she was "just" a maid and generally expected to take it when the patron guy made any advances but I was suprised by her interactions with Pieter before her marriage to him.

That being said, I really liked the scene I mentioned with Pieter and Griet. I found that it really highlighted the feelings that Griet had for Vermeer much more than her feelings for Pieter.

message 36: by Kandice (new)

Kandice I felt that her allowing Pieter advances, that were out of character for her, were her way with dealing with all that sexual frustration and tension that we, as readers, felt, and she must heave felt much more intensely. To allow anything physical between Vermeer and herself would have been unforgiveable. He was married AND her employer. With Pieter, he was going to have her eventually, so by allowing these "trysts" she was only speeding things up a bit, making him happy, and releasing her own "tensions". Probably the only thing she could do in these circumstances that only endangered herself. (her honor)

message 37: by Lostinfiction (new)

Lostinfiction | 6 comments I actually liked that Chevalier kept all of that stuff to a minimum - if she hadn't, I think it would've cheapened the story a bit and made it less realistic. I like that she kept it a bit truer to real life - I mean who *hasn't* had that one near encounter that never actually happens?

message 38: by Becky, Moddess (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) | 3723 comments Mod
You know, the Pieter/Griet thing annoyed me for a different reason than it did everyone else. And I really hope that you guys don't take this the wrong way! LOL

I really liked Pieter's character and I really thought that he deserved better than Griet. Not because Griet wasn't worthy of him, but because he deserved someone who felt the same way about him as he felt about her. So her allowing him to be with her when she was thinking of someone else was just unfair and it annoyed me and I wanted to slap her.

I'm with K on why she did it, but I just thought that Pieter deserved someone who wouldn't USE him that way. If the tables had been turned, and it had been Griet in love with Pieter from the start, and Pieter allowed her to be with him while thinking of someone else, it would be insulting and (hopefully) everyone would be raging about what pigs men are. But Griet does it and it's OK because women in her station and time were so restricted.

Nuh uh. If you're going to be proper, be proper.

The fact that Griet knew she was going to accept Pieter eventually makes it even worse in my opinion. It's like she's saying that she can't have what she wants, so she'll take (and force herself to like) whatever else is a viable option.

I DID like the book over all, but I thought that Pieter deserved someone who was on equal grounds with him as to where they stood in their relationship.

message 39: by Kandice (new)

Kandice I agree with you, Becky, but I also think women at the time had less of a choice, so maybe refusing Pieter was no option for her. Not without ruining her life. If you have to marry someone you don't love anyway, at least you can fantasize about someone you do. I thinks it's horrid, and Pieter seemed a genuinely stand up guy, but maybe it was just making the best of a bad situation.

Having said that, I didn't really like Griet as a person at all. She seemed a bit of a brat in her immaturity.

message 40: by Becky, Moddess (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) | 3723 comments Mod
Kandice wrote: "Having said that, I didn't really like Griet as a person at all. She seemed a bit of a brat in her immaturity. "


message 41: by Renee (new)

Renee (elenarenee) | 516 comments I felt that Griet was trying to find the feelings for Peter by letting the touching happen. I thought she was hoping to turn her affections to him through contact

message 42: by Jon (new)

Jon | 362 comments im not sure that Griet was in love with Vermeer or initially Pieter, i think she wound up with a happy marriage, but i must admit i think Vermeer awakened her sensuality, she would have so gone there with him, i think she freed herself up a bit in that dept for Pieter as a result. I liked Griet actually.

message 43: by Donna (new)

Donna | 49 comments Hi Heather, I had some of the same thoughts as you did.

Regarding Cornelia, I haven’t a clue what her problem was and if I remember correctly she was only 6 or 7 when Griet arrived, maybe she was just a nasty child.

Catherine, however, was jealous of Griet and would have been jealous of anyone Vermeer paid any kind of attention to. I kept thinking if Vermeer and Catherine had a better relationship there wouldn’t be any story because all of the secrecy around the work in the studio and the sitting for the painting was out of fear of Catherine’s reaction. She may have loved Vermeer but she went into the marriage with expectations of a measure of status as his wife and I am sure she expected him to paint her and the children at some point. I think she was a bitter, disappointed woman.

As for Vermeer’s feelings for Griet, I’ve gone back and forth but ultimately I came to the conclusion that he didn’t really care for her or Catherine for that matter. I think he was focused on his art and everything else was a means to an end. He married Catherine for her money, he used Griet for her skills and to satisfy a wealthy patron, and he made very little attempt to make enough money to support his family. I really am not sure why he left the pearl earrings to Griet but if I had to pick one reason I would say he was paying a debt but actually it seemed out of character for him to even think of something like that.

message 44: by Jon (last edited Sep 02, 2009 08:59PM) (new)

Jon | 362 comments v good point that there wouldnt have been much story without that marriage tension.

Im a little with H on why Vermeer was interested - i think he was fascinated by this maid with an artists eye

message 45: by Kandice (new)

Kandice I think Vermeers interest in Griet was all about her artistic "eye". Yes, she was beautiful, but I don't think that had anything to do with his attraction to her. Catherine seemed to have no idea about art, aesthetic, whatever. I think he DID marry her for her money, and was very sorry to have so little in common after he did.

I think Cornelia could see that Vermeer felt something for Griet. She may have sensed it went deeper than beauty, and saw that as a very real threat. I don't think she was old enough to think all that through, but children are excellent at feeling their way through a situation without having to look at it logically. Once she decided she didn't like her, she was bratty enough that would never change. Catherine's reaction to Griet would just reinforce and justify Cornelia's feelings.

I think the earrings were an appology of sorts. Griet may have been the only person he encountered with the same artistic eye he had, and he may have regretted her lowly station in life makingit impossible for them to explore that in a way that was not secretive and frowned upon. I bet he felt her talent was wasted and it was a dying effort to make up for that in some very small way.

message 46: by Jon (new)

Jon | 362 comments yeah that would sum it up K

message 47: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer (jennifertudor) | 324 comments I was thinking too that Catherina would have known in advance of Griet coming that Griet would be allowed in Vermeer's studio and would have resented her before she even arrived at the house. Maybe her resentment and anger was picked up on by Cornelia also in advance of meeting Griet as she was always with her mother and the most like her. What do you think?

message 48: by Donna (new)

Donna | 49 comments I hadn't thought about Cornelia being close to her mother and being similar in temperment. That certainly would explain how a child so young would act that way.

message 49: by Renee (new)

Renee (elenarenee) | 516 comments LOL I also loved that I had wanted someone to slap her the whole book

Maggie the Muskoka Library Mouse (mcurry1990) | 3 comments This is a great book, I thoroughly enjoyed the way Chevalier wrote. I found it lovely to read, and hard to put down.

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