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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Enjoyable Novel
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...
Published on 8 Jan 2003 by Mrs. Sba Francis

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not my favourite from this writer
Although this is an engaging and easy read, I was a little disappointed with it. It's a very simple, straightforward story without a great deal of depth to it, although the character of Griet is nicely drawn. Sadly, Vermeer doesn't really come to life and is a rather flat and unattractive character, making it rather difficult to believe that Griet could fall under his...
Published on 22 Aug 2009 by daisyrock


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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Enjoyable Novel, 8 Jan 2003
By 
Mrs. Sba Francis (Carmarthen, Wales) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
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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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A SPELLBINDING NOVEL..., 26 Nov 2004
By 
Lawyeraau (Balmoral Castle) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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. It is, therefore, not surprising that the undercurrents in the Vermeer household should come bubbling to the surface and engulf Griet, much to her consternation.
This is a stunning literary work that fully realizes the promise that the author showed in her debut novel, "The Virgin Blue". She is an author that understands the less is often more, and she makes every word count. Deliberate and spare, her prose is lyrical in its simplicity, weaving a tale that will keep the reader spellbound. This is historical fiction at its finest. Bravo!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A painting comes to life, 26 May 2004
By 
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 (MK UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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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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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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As Richly Lustrous As A Vermeer, 16 Dec 2002
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. As a Protestant, she is looked upon with suspicion by most of the members of this Catholic home, but she nevertheless attracts a young suitor who is determined to marry her, as she comes to play a major role in Vermeer's life as a helper who can not only clean his studio and organize his paints, but can actually help him to compose his paintings as well.
The emotional tone of Girl With a Pearl Earring is perfect. Griet is a fully-realized character; a child growing into an adult, with just the right mix of girlish ways and budding maturity. The detail of daily life is also rendered so finely and precisely that we feel we can actually smell the meat halls of Delft, hear the lively bustle of city life and suffer the quiet tragedy of a quarantine.
Chevalier also weaves details from Vermeer's paintings into her story of Griet. The result is a book that is vibrantly alive and lustrously rich. It is an education in art history for those who would otherwise let it pass them by. A tapestry of beauty that pulls the reader in from beginning to end, Girl With a Pearl Earring is a fascinating story and a fascinating look at life in Renaissance Delft that will reward anyone who reads it.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, 31 Dec 2003
By A Customer
'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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not my favourite from this writer, 22 Aug 2009
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This review is from: Girl With a Pearl Earring (Paperback)
Although this is an engaging and easy read, I was a little disappointed with it. It's a very simple, straightforward story without a great deal of depth to it, although the character of Griet is nicely drawn. Sadly, Vermeer doesn't really come to life and is a rather flat and unattractive character, making it rather difficult to believe that Griet could fall under his spell quite so heavily.

So, although this novel passed a pleasant couple of afternoons, it doesn't pack anything like the punch of the dark and eerie Virgin Blue or, better still, the absolutely marvellous, multi-layered Falling Angels by the same author. Strange that this is her best-known work when, for me, it's by far the least interesting.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Miss It!, 26 Mar 2004
By A Customer
Art historians have called Jan Vermeer's painting "Girl With A Pearl Earring", the "Mona Lisa of the North". Painted in the 1660's in Delft, Holland, the young woman in the portrait gazes at the viewer with a look that defies definite description. Does the over the shoulder pose indicate surprise or expectation? Do the slightly parted lips show flirtation or longing? Are the wide blue eyes innocent or knowing? The feelings of the young woman captured on canvas 350 years ago are a seductive mystery.
Author, Tracy Chevalier, has skillfully taken the questions evoked in the painting and has created a story in response. The fictive heroine is Griet, a 16 year old girl of the working classes. Her father, once a painter of the blue and white Delft tiles has been blinded in an accident impoverishing the family. Griet's mother has arranged for Griet to work as a servant in the large but chaotic home of the painter Vermeer. While the Vermeers appear wealthy to Griet, the situation is actually one of genteel poverty exacerbated by the fecundity of Vermeer's shrewish wife. Griet tries to be invisible to Vermeer's crafty mother-in-law, the Vermeer's long-suffering older serving woman and the blooming litter of Vermeer children. But her beauty does not escape the eye of the painter.
The reader is drawn into the life of 17th century Delft through the historical authenticity of the scenes painted with words. Vermeer's other paintings are beautifully described as he creates them and I found it enjoyable to supplement this novel by simultaneously looking through a colorplate book of Vermeer's paintings.
Griet thinks in terms of color and light. She is precise and ordered in cleaning the studio of the painter. They are a match in everything but class. Separated by the barriers of class and Vermeer's marriage, the love making in this story takes place in oil on canvas. It is as quiet and reserved as are these people of the north.
Griet must fulfill her feelings with Pieter, the noisy butcher's son. The author contrasts the ordered and quiet Vermeer with the boisterous and bloody butcher, Pieter. Griet is caught between two worlds and two men. She is captured in one world on canvas and in another world entirely in reality.
This is a novel as luminous as its subject. A love story as a still life. This book is totally engrossing, beautifully written and unforgettable. Don't miss it! Another little-known novel I recommend is: The Losers' Club by Richard Perez, which I purchased off Amazon.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully atmospheric and wonderful y evocative writing, 17 Dec 2004
By 
Jules "policechick" (Hertforshire, England) - See all my reviews
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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Girl With a Pearl Earring
Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (Paperback - 11 Sep 2014)
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