Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier, was first published in 1999.
The first sentence is: “My mother did not tell me they were coming.”
It’s 1664. Griet, the story’s narrator, is a 16-year-old girl in Delft, Holland. Her father had been a tile painter, until a kiln explosion blinded him. Her younger brother has been sent off to start his apprenticeship. Griet’s family is getting by on charity from the tradesmen’s guild. The charity is not enough.
As the story opens, Griet has been sent to work as a live-in maid for the household of a painter named Johannes Vermeer. Her talent for returning furniture to its precise locations, essential for cleaning the room of a blind man, will be needed when cleaning a painter’s studio. Griet also has an unneeded talent for arranging vegetables in artistically pleasing colors and patterns while working in her family’s kitchen.
Griet’s new employment as a maid will bring her family some money, but will also bring them shame. It’s known that maids tend to be temptresses and/or thieves.
Griet is a creative and intelligent person – more so than a girl should be in 17th century Dutch society. But she is wise enough to mind her manners and her words. Her master, Johannes Vermeer, recognizes, and encourages, Griet’s artistic talents, which causes the rest of the Vermeer household to become suspicious of their maid’s motives. Griet knows that if her master were ever to ask her to pose for one of his paintings, it would ruin her life.
Girl with a Pearl Earring is a story of propriety and class. It presents a believable story of life in 17th century Holland. It’s a wonderful book.
I enjoyed it a lot.
The young woman who posed for Vermeer’s masterpiece was, of course, a real person. Today, no one knows who she was. Not much is know about the life of Johannes Vermeer or his family. Girl with a Pearl Earring is a novel, a work of fiction and imagination.
Why I chose this book:
Phillip bought this book from the charity bookshelf in his office, and I borrowed it from him (which would make it eligible for one of the Reading Challenge categories). We’d both seen the movie that was based on this book (which would make it eligible for another category). I’ve read that there was a short-lived play based on this book (yet another category). But I used it for the “Novel based on a real person” category. I think a fictional story about a person most people recognize, but no one knows anymore, is the best fit.