review: girl with a pearl earring

24 September 2012

book info:
ages: 12 and up
grades: 7-8 and up
years: 9 and up
on sale: now
copy from: school library
pages: 233

title: Girl with a Pearl Earring
author: Tracy Chevalier

With precisely 35 canvases to his credit, the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer represents one of the great enigmas of 17th-century art. The meager facts of his biography have been gleaned from a handful of legal documents. Yet Vermeer's extraordinary paintings of domestic life, with their subtle play of light and texture, have come to define the Dutch golden age. His portrait of the anonymous Girl with a Pearl Earring has exerted a particular fascination 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 centers on Vermeer's prosperous Delft household during the 1660s. When Griet, the novel's quietly perceptive heroine, is hired as a servant, turmoil follows. First, the 16-year-old narrator becomes increasingly intimate with her master. Then Vermeer employs her as his assistant--and ultimately has Griet sit for him as a model. Chevalier vividly evokes the complex domestic tensions of the household, ruled over by the painter's jealous, eternally pregnant wife and his taciturn mother-in-law. At times the relationship between servant and master seems a little anachronistic. Still, Girl with a Pearl Earring does contain a final delicious twist.

There's also a second cover that I think will appeal more to teenage audiences. Personally, I prefer the original cover, as it contains the very centre of this entire story. It has Greit, her cap and her earring and that look in her face. This is what the novel is about. But the second cover has an alarming look-alike and shows the more seductive side of this story. I'm glad they don't have her hair showing as well, and it retains the mystery in the painting too...but maids don't wear red...also I pictured Vermeer as being more rosy and blond, and without a moustache. However, yeah still prefer the original!What do you think?
Anyway, on to the review!

This is what I remember historical fiction novels being like. It's the typical historical fiction novels, yet when I say "typical" I mean in a good way. Typical as applied to paranormal is in a bad way, like "I'm sick of this". But it's hard to go wrong with historical fiction.

This book is magical in it's simplicity. It's not too complicated. There's no war going on, there's no savaged, powerful pre-destined heroine or dangerous hero. It's simply about a maid working at a painter's home...and well, a bit more complicated than that. I think it's very well done, but also incredibly simple. It's a single story, following a single, easy plotline. It's both a good thing, and a slightly bad thing.

I really enjoyed the vague MC, Greit. She seems very bland, yet in that way she remains an enigma. I don't entirely know what's going on in her head, nor do I know the mind of Vermeer. Painters are always difficult to understand, but there's beauty in not understanding sometimes. I remember Michelangelo from The Agony and the Ecstasy being quite complicated as well. Artists are great characters.

The story itself is nice and sweet and poetic. Full of small details that make the story unforgettable. I give it four trees for making me think.

1 thoughts:

  1. Kirthi!!! I love this! :) In fact, I loved it so much that my mom bought me the special version with the paintings in it. ;) I cried, smiled and ached for Griet. She's <3. This is one of my favorites. Glad you liked it!


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