The audio cassette version of Girl With a Pearl Earring:
The fictional story behind Vermeer's famous painting revolves around sixteen-year old Griet, who becomes a maid in the artist's home to help her struggling family. She is a quiet, intelligent girl, fully aware of her rather helpless situation: She must do the hardest work from morning til night without sympathy or kindness in the cold house. She does, however, greatly admire the elusive Vermeer, and to her shock and secret joy, he asks her one day to be his model for a painting. She must also contend with the unwanted attentions of Vermeer's wealthy patron, and is unsure of her feelings for the amorous young butcher.
Since the uneducated Griet is the story's narrator, author Chevalier has written in a very simple, uncluttered style: There are virtually no compound sentences, few adjectives, and even fewer words describing emotions. This is because Griet's lot in life is to serve; it makes no difference how she feels about people, events, or tasks, so she doesn't dwell on them.
Griet never refers to Vermeer by name; he is always "The Master," or simply "Him." While a bit of an affectation on the part of the author, it reflects Griet's view of him as bigger than life; godlike. She never puts into words her feelings for him, nor does he for her; indeed people at that time kept their thoughts to themselves. We learn little about Vermeer, except that he took scant notice of his homelife, which was rife with conflict between the mistress, servants, and children. The last chapter was the most intense and was indeed a satisfying end to Griet's story.
Narrator Ruth Ann Phimister's voice is low and sounds too mature to be speaking the words of a sixteen-year old. However, she does convey Griet's pluckiness as well as her constant fatigue. While we don't learn about Vermeer, the story does gives us a glimpse into Dutch society in 1665. It is a quiet story.