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Girl With a Pearl Earring [Paperback]

Tracy Chevalier
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (181 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 July 2006

An international bestseller with over two million copies sold, this is a story of an artist’s desire for beauty and the ultimate corruption of innocence.

17th Century Holland. When Griet becomes a maid in the household of Johannes Vermeer in the town of Delft, she thinks she knows her role: housework, laundry and the care of his six children. But as she becomes part of his world and his work, their growing intimacy spreads tension and deception in the ordered household and, as the scandal seeps out, into the town beyond.

Tracy Chevalier’s extraordinary historical novel on the corruption of innocence and the price of genius is a contemporary classic perfect for fans of Sarah Dunant and Philippa Gregory.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (3 July 2006)
  • Language: French
  • ISBN-10: 0007232160
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007232161
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (181 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 20,140 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. Whilst 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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

‘Chevalier doesn't put a foot wrong in this triumphant work … It is a beautifully written tale that mirrors the elegance of the painting that inspired it’ Wall Street Journal

'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

'A wonderful novel, mysterious, steeped in atmosphere, deeply revealing about the process of painting…truly magical' Guardian

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 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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34 of 35 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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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A maid's life in 17th century Holland 6 Feb 2004
Format:Audio Cassette
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.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alive with Delicious Tension and Detail 29 July 2001
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
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 10 days ago by Lawman
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully made film.
The colour rendering throughout makes the whole film look like an oil painting. It is incredibly beautiful, so if you are even slightly interested in art in general or Vermeer in... Read more
Published 12 days ago by Mr B A Le Carpentier
5.0 out of 5 stars So beautifully acted
Not much of a plot, basically a young servant girl (Scarlet Johansen )suffers from the jealousy of the family she's working for because she is so much better than them and herself... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Gamla
4.0 out of 5 stars Girl behind the earring
Vermeer's painting, 'Girl with a pearl earring', is arguably one of the most recognised and famous portraits ever. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Pepper
5.0 out of 5 stars what a great paiting,book and I am yet to see the film
Great book,great painting.vemeer was a great painter and i went to delph but I dont think we had time to go in the gallery where some of his paintings were as we were on a coach... Read more
Published 2 months ago by hazel
5.0 out of 5 stars Girl with a pearl earring
Written in a fluent way, very much enjoyable, and gives an interesting overview of life and costumes in 1600 Holland. Recommended reading!
Published 3 months ago by barbara xella
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant story telling
sorry for the pun but Tracy Chevalier paints wonderful pictures with very page.
Just like Burning Bright you are taken back in time.
Published 3 months ago by Mojo
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good!
Excellent to read again ... and again. Superb!.
A classic yet hasn't taken on a single wrinkle! Enjoy it again!
Published 3 months ago by Christiane Zuidema
5.0 out of 5 stars Girls with a Pearl Earring
This is a lovely story. I know that this was televised, but this book does not go into any of the dark areas that the TV programme did. Read more
Published 5 months ago by M J MCMILLAN
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book
One of the best books I have read. I am going to hear the author speak about her books. I enjoyed it so much that I have read her other books except her latest which I will read... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mrs PL Gyte
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