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Girl With a Pearl Earring [Paperback]

Tracy Chevalier
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (190 customer reviews)
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Book Description

14 July 2000

A brilliant historical novel on the corruption of innocence, using the famous painting by Vermeer as an inspiration.

Griet, the young daughter of a tilemaker in seventeeth century Holland, obtains her first job, as a servant in Vermeer’s household. Tracy Chevalier shows us, through Griet’s eyes, the complicated family, the society of the small town of Delft, and life with an obsessive genius. Griet loves being drawn into his artistic life, and leaving her former drudgery, but the cost to her own survival may be high.

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Girl With a Pearl Earring + Falling Angels + Remarkable Creatures
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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 (190 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 338,041 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 sensually luminous novel brings Vermeer and his art to life through bold sumptuous prose.’
Historical Novels Review

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

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Enjoyable Novel 8 Jan 2003
By Mrs. Sba Francis VINE VOICE
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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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A SPELLBINDING NOVEL... 26 Nov 2004
This gifted author weaves a mesmerizing tale around Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer's most famous painting, creating an incandescent and luminous work of her own. His painting is a simple, though enigmatic, portrait of a girl with a pearl earring, about which little is known. The author, however, a born storyteller, creates a living, breathing story around it, using a singular, first person narrative. Told in spare, elegant prose, the author leaps into literary renown with this book.
The events in the book are viewed through the eyes of Griet, a sixteen year old Dutch girl, whose changed family circumstances force her into taking a position as a maid in the home of a renowned painter, the taciturn Johannes Vermeer. There, the painter resides with his tempestuous wife, Catharina, their brood of unruly children, his commanding and shrewd mother-in-law, Maria Thins, and their loyal housekeeper and cook, Tanneke. The author lovingly details seventeenth century life in the Dutch city of Delft. It is here that Griet's story unfolds.
Sensitive and perceptive, Griet is attuned to the under currents in the Vermeer household and, at first, takes care not to draw attention to herself. Still, she, the daughter of a tile painter, is curious about Vermeer's artistry and is drawn to his work and his methods. Vermeer, sensing a kindred artistic spirit in Griet, draws her into his world of paint, color, light, and beauty, creating an intimacy of the spirit between the two.
Still, Griet, a girl on the brink of becoming a woman, finds herself confused and breathlessly desiring more than she may have. Her longing for more than a communion of the spirit with Vermeer is palpable.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A painting comes to life 26 May 2004
By Lulama
I enjoyed every page of this novel. The story is told by a young girl who goes to work as a maid for the painter, Vermeer and his family. She tells of her relationships with the members of the family: an uneasy relationship with the painter's wife who is jealous that the maid is allowed in her husband's studio when she is not and a bond with the painter that she comes to realise for her is love. His feelings are not clear though he is drawn to her as she has an understanding and appreciation of his work but she feels to him that she is just a painting and when he has completed painting her, she feels that she has no use to him. The climax of the novel suggests that she may have been wrong. A beautifully written book and a wonderful insight of human nature as well as evoking a fascinating picture of seventeenth century Delft.
Have just watched the film and enjoyed the film but it is a simple story and the film doesn't convey the depth of characterisation and subtle nuances of the maid, Griet's thoughts and feelings. It is beautiful to watch and the actress who plays Griet is brilliant but I'm so glad that I read the book first!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pearl of a book! 7 Mar 2005
By still searching TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Using a famous yet enigmatic painting as the basis for a well-imagined story, the author writes in elegant and brilliantly understated prose that perfectly evokes the period she so effortlessly describes. The story in question is that of Griet, the daughter of a family fallen on hard times, who enters the service of the painter Vermeer as a maid, in order to supplement her parent's meagre income. Almost at once she disturbs the equilibrium of the household simply by being there and, in turn, is herself disturbed by the essence of its master who, though not very often physically present at first, dominates the lives of his large and ever-growing family. When she joins Vermeer's household Griet is on the cusp of womanhood and the growing yet unacknowledged bond between them is, nevertheless, sensed by Catharina, his wife, who treats Griet harshly. Unexpectedly Griet finds an ally in Catharina's mother who in subtle yet effective ways makes Griet's life more comfortable than it might otherwise have been.
Chevalier's book enables us to see the almost non-person status of women at that time, particularly those who were also servants. Indeed, in the person of Catharina we have a figure who is almost literally, little more than a baby-making machine. Yet, in the person of Griet, she also gives us an admirable heroin with an integrity that is unmatched by the men who seek to control her.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Well written and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.
Published 4 days ago by Mrs Margaret J Goss
4.0 out of 5 stars Girl With a Pearl Earring
Synopsis: Girl with a Pearl Earring centres on Vermeer’s prosperous household in Delft in the 1660s. Read more
Published 6 days ago by kirsty
4.0 out of 5 stars An Absorbing Novel To Escape Into
The first person narrative voice of 'Girl With A Pearl Earring' is beguilingly simple. At first the book reads like it's aimed at a young adult audience. Read more
Published 22 days ago by Catherine E. Chapman
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent book, well worth reading, recommend you buy it!!!!
Published 1 month ago by Tina
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling
When I was twelve I saw this painting in a book. It haunted me. This novel gives it a life.
Published 1 month ago by Unknown
5.0 out of 5 stars Girl with a pearl earing
I love the way the story unfolds ,although the story is fiction the actual painter did exist and also the way the paints were prepared

was true Tracy Chevalier puts a... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mrs. A. Sherman
5.0 out of 5 stars Very pleased with this item.
Very happy with this item. Heard a lot about this book and it didn't disappoint. Will certainly recommend it to friends.
Published 2 months ago by AEST
1.0 out of 5 stars Why did this do so well?
Very disappointing book. I fail to see the point in it. There is no climax whatsoever. I felt deeply let down. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Olga
5.0 out of 5 stars Wish I'd read it sooner
I don't know why I hadn't taken time to read this book sooner. I couldn't put it down and read it in just a couple of sittings.
Published 4 months ago by V Perry
3.0 out of 5 stars Not much to shout about
The book was recommended to me by a dear friend and a find she has different taste in stories to me. I like mine with more substance and pace than this. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Lawman
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