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Posts Tagged ‘Tracy Chevalier’

I was so close to getting 2 this week but went out on a girlie shopping spree tonight instead of finishing the second book. I would apologise, but I’m really not sorry 🙂

Book 21 – Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier. This book is about Griet, who becomes a maid to Johannes Vermeer and his family at the age of 16. It follows her as she tries to remain true to herself in a life she never expected, and find a way to be strong and choose her future when she is at the whim of others.  It is a novel, using elements of a life and inspired by an image: it is not a biography.

I have to be honest and say that in the first two or three pages I wanted to throw the book out of the car window (I was reading as a passenger on a day out, to give that some context!). Every third line there was a metaphor or simile that really stood out from the text, taking me away from the formation of a story and back to reality. I knew there was a purpose to it but there was just so much of it that it was a bit like a sledgehammer.

I didn’t chuck the book out of the window, though; I carried on past those first pages (and yes, the purpose of all the descriptions became clear) and became immersed in the world the book was creating.

There was a sense of sparseness and quietness in the book that really appealed to me – it isn’t an action-packed story so gestures, carefully-chosen words, looks exchanged and so on are the catalysts for change.

The characters themselves are flawed – Griet tries to be a good person but she leads Pieter along, knowingly deceives both her parents and Vermeer’s wife, and displays arrogance and selfishness throughout the tale.  Vermeer is talented and loves his family, but is weak and unthinking. Cordelia is cruel, but is herself the victim of poor parenting; her mother producing children as though they can fill the void in the centre of her unfulfilled life.

It’s a messy tale about being human and coping with all that being alive can bring, and in that respect I enjoyed it very much.  As a history, I have no idea about the accuracy or otherwise of the world Chevalier has drawn – sometimes it seems too clean and precise for the time, but that could have been the nature of Delft.

The house Griet lives in retains a murkiness well beyond that of the writing itself; the unknown reality of life for Vermeer and his household sings out even as a life is constructed on the page.

I saw the film when it came out in 2003 but I didn’t really remember the story and I think in part that’s because the story is laid upon the setting and the character.  Griet is the story’s protagonist but every step is leading her to becoming the girl in the painting.   It is inevitable and unchangeable.

Overall, I wanted to read this to the end, and that’s the key for me!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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