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Girl With a Pearl Earring Paperback – 14 Jul 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; New edition edition (14 July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006513204
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006513209
  • Product Dimensions: 19.5 x 1.5 x 12.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (224 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 585,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tracy is the author of seven historical novels, including the international bestseller GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, which has sold over 4 million copies and been made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth. American by birth, British by geography, she lives in London with her husband and son and cat. Her most recent novel, THE LAST RUNAWAY, is her first novel to be set in the United States, and she learned how to make quilts for it. Tracy is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and has honorary doctorates from her alma maters Oberlin College and the University of East Anglia. Her website will tell you more about her and her books.

Product Description

Amazon Review

The Dutch painter Vermeer has remained one of the great enigmas of 17th-century Dutch art. While little is known of his personal life, his extraordinary paintings of natural and domestic life, with their subtle play of light and colour, have come to define the Dutch Golden Age. The mysterious portrait of the anonymous Girl with a Pearl Earring has fascinated art historians for centuries, and it is this magnetic painting that lies at the heart of Tracy Chevalier's second novel of the same title.

Girl with a Pearl Earring centres on Vermeer's prosperous household in Delft in the 1660s. The appointment of the quiet, perceptive heroine of the novel, the servant Griet, gradually throws the household into turmoil as Vermeer and Griet become increasingly intimate, an increasingly tense situation that culminates in her working for Vermeer as his assistant, and ultimately sitting for him as a model. Chevalier deliberately cultivates a limpid, painstakingly observed style in homage to Vermeer, and the complex domestic tensions of the Vermeer household are vividly evoked, from the jealous, vain, young wife to the wise, taciturn mother-in-law. At times the relationship between servant and master seems a little anachronistic, but Girl with a Pearl Earring does contain a final delicious twist in its tail. Chevalier acknowledges her debt to Simon Schama's classic study of the Dutch Golden Age, The Embarrassment of Riches, and the novel comes hard on the heels of Deborah Moggach's similar tale of domestic intrigue behind the easel of 17th-century Dutch painting, Tulip Fever.

Girl with a Pearl Earring is a fascinating piece of speculative historical fiction, but how much more can novelists extract from the Dutch Golden Age? --Jerry Brotton


'Chevalier's writing skill and her knowledge of seventeenth-century Delft are such that she creates a world reminiscent of a Vermeer interior: suspended in a particular moment, it transcends its time and place' New Yorker

'Chevalier's book is a delight' Simon Jenkins, Guardian

'This is a wonderful novel, mysterious, steeped in atmosphere. It is deeply revealing about the process of painting…a truly magical experience.' Guardian

'This is a novel which deserves, and I am sure will win, a prize – or two.' Times

'A portrait of radiance…Tracy Chevalier brings the real artist Vermeer and a fictional muse to life in a jewel of a novel.' Time

'It has a slow, magical current of its own that picks you up and carries you stealthily along…a beautiful story, lovingly told by a very talented writer.' Daily Mail

'Life in 17th century Delft is evoked with a sharp eye for historical detail and the descriptions of Vermeer at work are superbly drawn. A sensuous and vividly crafted work of fiction from a highly talented young novelist.' Mail on Sunday

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 Dec. 2002
Format: Paperback
Vermeer was a seventeenth-century Delft painter who is known for his uncanny ability to use and capture light. He recorded the simple, yet intimate, activities of daily goings-on with a balance and detail that brought the very breath of life to his paintings. Tracy Chevalier, in Girl With a Pearl Earring, uses this same balance and detail to tell the story of Griet, a sixteen-year old servant girl working in Vermeer's household.
Although strong in both mind and body, Griet comes from a poverty-stricken family. Her father, once a skilled painter of Delft tiles, has been blinded in a kiln explosion. It is the shy and naive Griet who seeks to provide the wages needed for the family's survival. In the Vermeer household, Griet must cope with seemingly endless loads of laundry and meals, five small children and Vermeer's continually-pregnant wife, Catharina. It is her artist's eye, however, that sets her apart from the other servants, for Griet can clean the master's studio without having seemed to have touched a thing.
This book is woven around one of Vermeer's most famous paintings, The Girl With a Pearl Earring. It is a painting that is different from the religious scenes and those of daily life in Delft, so typical of Vermeer. The story is told from the point-of-view of Griet, the eventual model for the painting, rather than Vermeer, and it is filled with a young and fresh look at the daily details of life in 1660s Delft. We learn of the canals and the markets as well as the creation of Vermeer's masterpieces.
Griet's story is a complex one as she struggles to make a real place for herself in the Vermeer household.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 29 July 2001
Format: Paperback
Author Tracy Chevalier creates a vivid, complete world in 17th-century Delft, Holland, famous for its blue and white pottery and tiles, and home to the painter Johannes Vermeer. The book centers around the subject of one of Vermeer's most enigmatic paintings, and brings to life Griet, the fictional maid-servant of the Vermeer family.
Chevalier describes the household and Griet's life in such vivid detail that one feels one is walking the cobbled streets right next to Griet, and sharing her fears, desires and personal conflicts. Tensions build as we learn how she comes to be the subject of the painting and the denouement is not a disappointment. This novel guides you along a perfect course and the ending is as satisfying as one would hope. Five stars for subject matter, writing style and plot development!
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 31 Dec. 2003
Format: Paperback
'Girl with a pearl earring' is a novel based around a painting by Johannes Vermeer, and tells the fictional story of how it was painted. It takes you on an increadible journey to seventeenth-century Holland, to a family running out of money after the man of the house 'looses his trade' in an accident at his work. Being blind he can no longer earn money for his family, and so the eldest daughter, Griet, is sent to work as a maid.
This is when the story takes flight, as Griet comes to terms with working for a Catholic family, herself being protestant, and the strange life her master leads. Her master turns out to be the painter Vermeer, and Griet is drawn into his work in a way that could cost her her job.
Meanwhile there is also the growing romance between her and the butchers' son, which adds another lead for the story to take.
Chevalier paints a vivid picture of what life was like for people like Griet in Holland, although Griet's story is in no way ordinary.
This book is like nothing I have ever read before, and it is so un-put-downable that I read it in a day solidly. It lingers with you for days afterwards, and makes you wish it hadn't ended.
I would recommend this book as strongly as I can. Worth every second you take to read it.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. Sba Francis VINE VOICE on 8 Jan. 2003
Format: Paperback
I gave this book to my housebound mother at Christmas, and it has been a highly successful gift. Not only does she find the large print refreshingly easy to read, but the story itself is surprisingly gripping. The story of Griet, going as a maid to the house of Vermeer in 1660's Delft, the tale of how she ends up sitting as a model for the artist, and the domestic intrigue rife in the house fascinate the reader. It seems an old fashioned tale, in which no murders or adulteries are committed - which does not mean, of course, that they are not considered! - and the vivid picture of 17th century life in Holland, moving from the backstreet slums of the tile painters streets to the wealthier areas of where the artist lives, are realistic and vivid. I recommend the novel to all, and my mother recommends the large print to those, like her, who find it hard to see, even with glasses.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jules on 17 Dec. 2004
Format: Paperback
Tracy Chevalier has written an absolute corker of a novel. What wonderful imagination to take the subject of a painting and then to create a whole story around it.
Griet, the main character is somebody you warm to straight away although her physical attributes are cleverly understated. You learn only that she has wide set eyes and that her best feature - her hair is always covered up. Tracy Chevalier's writing though makes you realise that it's the fibre of Griet - her personality, her thoughts and her slightly daring approach to life as a maid in the 1600's - that makes her so appealing.
Vermeer is painted (excuse the pun) as a rather selfish man, focused on entirely his own needs. He scarecly seems to notice his eleven children or indeed his own wife. However the subtle yet compelling relationship that develops between Griet and Vermeer does seem to change him as a man and has a long-term impact on his life.
Whilst I had no idea of what Holland was like in the 1600's Tracy Chevalier creates a beautifully descriptive backdrop for the main story and the cast of supporting characters is great. The vain spoilt wife, the worldly-wise mother-in-law, the sly and troublesome daughter Cornelia and the lecherous old patron add a delicious humour and realism to the story of what it must have been like to be a part of life then.

For anyone wanting something to really relax into, but something that will keep you hooked, this is a great read.
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