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Girl in Hyacinth Blue Paperback – 2 Sep 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Review; 2 edition (2 Sept. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0755305302
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755305308
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 1.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 274,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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)

UK REVIEWS:
'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)

US REVIEWS:

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

'Wonderful' Salon.com

Book Description

If you loved GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, you will love this international bestselling story of the girl behind a Vermeer painting.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Vivid, simple, and poetic, Girl in Hyacinth Blue reads like a collage of perfect little Vermeers as the author paints brief moments in the lives of several different owners of a haunting painting. Spanning the years from the present backward to the creation of the painting in the 1660's, the book is as intricately and subtly composed as one of Vermeer's paintings. Each episode illustrates two different kinds of love--both personal, private love and a larger universal love or sense of responsibility.
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
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Format: Paperback
When a shy, private-school math teacher, Cornelius Engelbrecht, discovers a canvas thought to be a Vermeer, Girl in Hyacinth Blue, a touching and beautifully-written book, begins a fascinating journey back through time to trace the history of the painting.
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.
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By Christine L HALL OF FAME on 27 Sept. 2002
Format: Hardcover
I was recommended this book by a friend who knew that I'd liked Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring. Although I didn't enjoy it quite as much as Chevalier's book, it did still keep me turning the pages and wanting to read more. Using the painting to tie these stories about Dutch families at various stages of history together is a very clever idea. Particularly as it seemed to tell us how brief human life is, but how a painting that manages to capture us will live on for a long time and continue touching people's souls, long after we're gone.
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.
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Format: Audio CD
"For how great is its goodness And how great its beauty!" -- Zechariah 9:17 (NKJV)

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.
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