Girl in Hyacinth Blue Paperback – 2 Sep 2002
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This is not just another book with a Vermeer on the dust jacket...[but] an illuminating meditation on the nature of art....This beautifully imagined and written book...is a work of art itself' (Sunday Telegraph)
'This is not just another book with a Vermeer on the dust jacket...It is an illuminating meditation on the nature of art....This beautifully imagined and written book...is a work of art itself' Sunday Telegraph
'Susan Vreeland's...imaginitive, deeply moving triumph' Ms London
Subtle and atmospheric...an impressive debut. (Publishers Weekly)
`...celebrate the skill with which Susan Vreeland evokes the diverse owners of the picture across the ages' Independent
Wonderful...Extraordinarily skilled...deft, perceptive, full of learning, deeply moving (Kirkus Reviews)
Intelligent, searching and unusual, the novel is filled with luminous moments; like the painting it describes so well, it has a way of lingering in the reader's mind (Katy Emck, New York Times Review of Books)
A work of art (New York Post)
'A work of art' New York Post
'Intelligent, searching and unusual, the novel is filled with luminous moments; like the painting it describes so well, it has a way of lingering in the reader's mind' New York Times Book Review
'Subtle and atmospheric...an impressive debut' Publishers Weekly
'Wonderful...extraordinarily skilled...deft, perceptive...deeply moving' Kirkus Reviews
If you loved GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, you will love this international bestselling story of the girl behind a Vermeer painting.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
At the same time, each episode also traces the ownership of the painting and gives glimpses of the role of art in the lives of ordinary people. Beginning with the dilemma faced by a teacher who acquired the painting from his father, a low level Nazi functionary during World War II, it then moves successively backward to the stories of the Jewish family which owned it, to a father who bought it to commemorate an early, lost love, and backward still to an the unhappy French wife of a functionary stationed in Holland and enjoying an erotic interlude. Ultimately, it regresses to the life of the Vermeer family and the daughter who sat for the painting. Girl in Hyacinth Blue is a gem of understated complexity. Mary Whipple
Engelbrecht's father's dying words had been, "An eye like a blue pearl," referring to the female figure in the painting, that of a young woman in a blue smock and rust-colored skirt, standing beside an open window. Although Cornelius feels captivated by the painting, he also feels a sense of shame at how it came to be in his father's possession.
From the revelation of what, exactly, the elder Engelbrecht did, we then move backward through time from the point of view of one owner to another, all the way back to the painting's point of origin. Each time the painting changes hands, there are high hopes, a time of optimism, until it finally falls into Cornelius' hands and he realizes how it has been tainted by history. The single thread running through each story, the one that connects each character, is this lovely painting, the painting of the Girl in Hyacinth Blue.
One of the most fascinating things about this lovely little book are the details of family life and the history that can be found in each vignette. Like the painting, each "story-within-the-novel" seems to be a frozen moment in time and Vreeland's language in painting her own word portrait is both formal and concise as she offers lush detail and wonderful insight. Much in the book is tender and sad and it truly touches the heart. We feel the pain of these characters and identify with their suffering. They are real people and we can almost believe the painting is real as well.Read more ›
I also very much enjoyed the fact that the book started in present day and worked backwards to when it was painted and then finished with the story of the girl in the picture.
Vreeland has a style of writing that flows very well and that makes her stories incredibly captivating to read. The fact that each chapter seems to start with a bit of a mystery, asking the question where the painting had been before it arrived at its current location, is what keeps you from putting it down at the end of the chapter.
Just to be clear, I'm reviewing the unabridged audio CD version of Girl in Hyacinth Blue. I highly recommend listening to, rather than reading, this intriguing book. The audio version will make the insights of Ms. Vreeland's stories more accessible to you.
The Girl in Hyacinth Blue has a simple premise: Start with the current owner of a beloved painting and move back in time to learn about its previous owners and its ultimate creative origin, expressed through what the painting means to them and how it affects their lives.
Adding these dimensions to fiction about a rare (imaginary) Vermeer painting certainly expanded my horizons. Although I certainly own art that others must have possessed and valued before me, I had never given them any thought (except for a name captured in a friendly inscription). Yet they were there before me, all the time! I must also admit that I tend to focus more on how others and I react to art today, rather than how people in the past did, or how the works were created. I am extremely grateful to Ms. Vreeland for adding this perspective to my life.
Let me make a few things clear about the book that may be more important to you than they were to me. Ms. Vreeland's mastery of writing about Vermeer's work isn't that of an art historian, but it's rather more like that of an art enthusiast. If you take your commentary on art seriously, your nerves will screech a bit in places. Ms. Vreeland is also not an historian. She writes more accurately about the human heart than about the times that the fictional events took place.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Amazing book of short tales all different yet all with the same themePublished 14 months ago by sally chapman
Intriguing tale and well written. From modern day to the time of Vermeer, this keeps you interested.Published 15 months ago by val galloway
The front cover of this book features a painting by Dutch master Jan Vermeer called ‘The Painter in his Studio’. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Sandradan1
The painting comes to life in each owners eyes. Beautiful heartfelt descriptions. A real work or art. The author shows great love and respect for vermeers work.Published 16 months ago by Kindle Customer
found it hard to get into this book will try again once on holidayPublished 17 months ago by hedgeclog
Quite a good book in my view, started in the present & traced the origin back. It wasn't the sort of book I couldn't put down but it was enjoyable & it had a beginning, middle &... Read morePublished 21 months ago by B. Ellis
Read this book some time ago. I wanted to give it to an artist friend who is interested in Vermeer.Published on 23 Jan. 2014 by Mrs. J. Rochman
I'm going to start this review by talking about a different book, as you do. So, Girl with a Pearl Earring. Adored it. Read morePublished on 13 Jun. 2012 by H. Whitehead
I am so glad that I didn't read the reviews. I didn't even read the back of the jacket, so the story unravelled itself gradually, without me having any idea of what it was about... Read morePublished on 26 Oct. 2011 by kittiwake