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Synopsis: Girl with a Pearl Earring centres on Vermeer’s prosperous household in Delft in the 1660s. The appointment of the quiet, perceptive heroine of the novel, the servant Griet, gradually throws the household into turmoil as Vermeer and Griet become increasingly intimate, an increasingly tense situation that culminates in her working for Vermeer as his assistant, and ultimately sitting for him as a model. Chevalier deliberately cultivates a limpid, painstakingly observed style in homage to Vermeer, and the complex domestic tensions of the Vermeer household are vividly evoked, from the jealous, vain, young wife to the wise, taciturn mother-in-law. At times the relationship between servant and master seems a little anachronistic, but Girl with a Pearl Earring does contain a final delicious twist in its tail.
I’ve had this book 18 months after picking up a free copy during 2013 World Book Night. I’m not sure what put me off reading it as I’ve never seen the film and apart from knowing it was a story based on a painting I knew very little. I’m glad I decided to keep it to read one day as I absolutely loved it.
The suspense builds throughout & not knowing any of the story I kept turning pages waiting for the inevitable love affair. It was nice surprise to find it didn’t hapen instead Vermeer, wrapped up in his own world only had eyes for his muse as an object to paint rather than any object of desire and poor Griet was instantly forgotten as soon as his work was done. Vermeer not realising or caring how his behaviour affects everyone else almost destroys his own marriage in the process.
Told through the eyes of young Griet we get to see how this mistaken love builds, causing confusion, her own secret crush, jealousy from fellow maid Tanneke, the wife and one of his daughters and takes us from Griet’s first meeting with her new employers to the climax of the paintings ending building to the point where you becomes almost desperate for something to happen. I’m quite surprised to find myself not disappointed by what could be seen as an anti-climax.
It’s lovely to read a possible story behind such a well known painting. Highly recommended. I just wish I’d picked it up sooner.