“Girl With a Pearl Earring”, by Tracy Chevalier

I just finished reading “Girl With a Pearl Earring “. I know I’m late to this particular party (the book was published in 2000), but it came out as I was entering my very long reading drought, so I hadn’t yet read it. A couple of college friends recommended it, so I thought “why not? ”

The novel provides a fictional back story for the masterpiece of the
same name painted by Johannes Vermeer in the latter part of the 1600s. It speculates that the girl in the painting was a young maid in the Vermeer household and tells the story, from her point of view, of living in that household, posing for the painting, and dealing with the aftermath of her role. Along the way, we get an interesting glimpse into life in 17th century Holland, including social norms, religious differences and gender roles.

I had a mixed reaction to “Girl With a Pearl Earring”. On one hand, the Vermeer household was a little creepy, there isn’t much action and the main character was kind of meh. But for some reason I kept reading it because I really wanted to know what happened next. The author created enough tension among the characters to keep my interest and I liked learning about life back then.

The truly remarkable thing about this book is that very little is known about Vermeer, so most of the story is pure fiction . Do you remember that childhood activity where you’re shown a picture and you have to make up a story or write a paragraph about it? That’s essentially what Ms. Chevalier did, except she wrote an entire book about it. Now that takes serious skill and an impressive imagination!

These days, people use memes as a technique to tell the story behind a picture. I think the meme version of “Girl With a Pearl Earring” would look something like this:your-wifes-a-8tsgzt

I’m curious to hear other people’s opinions about this book. What did or didn’t you like about it?

5 thoughts on ““Girl With a Pearl Earring”, by Tracy Chevalier

  1. LOL…at least you finished it! I got to some point and decided my time would be better spent elsewhere. Love the meme!

    I have to admit that I’m fascinated by the painting style of that time and place. . I saw a documentary called “Tim’s Vermeer” that was pretty popular A couple years ago by Penn Gilette (of Penn and Teller) depicting a friend who figured out the painting technique, and proceeded to paint…a Vermeer…fascinating!

    There’s a new book out called the Last Painting of Sara DeVos by Domonic Smith, which takes place in 1631, 1957, and 2000. I’m only 1/4 through it, and don’t have a good feel it yet about how determined the author is to enter life of the time, but there actually were women painters in the guild at that time…


    • I’m glad I’m not the only one who didn’t love this book! I watched that documentary a couple of years ago and it was fascinating, although I kept thinking that if that guy was my husband I’d have to kill him for spending so much time and energy on that project!


  2. If you haven’t seen “Tim’s Vermeer,” you must. It is easily the best documentary (and one of the best films) I’ve seen in the last decade.


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