Tracy Chevalier’s raved-about 1999 historical novel of Vermeer’s famous painting. I read a used Plume paperback which had a price sticker lovingly placed over Scarlett Johansson’s eye.
3.5 out of 5 stars.
Times Read: 1
Seen the Movie: Yes and it made me seek out the book.
To help her family, sixteen-year-old Griet enters employment as a maid in the house of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, soon becoming something of an assistant.
Girl with a Pearl Earring isn’t the heavy, dense historical novel I assumed it would be. It’s a light, breezy, tale of an emotional affair starring a bunch of unlikeable characters. This is the sort of thing you read in waiting rooms and one you can give to people who like “respectable” romance. It’s sexy as hell but reserved (lots of held-breath-staring-at-each-other moments). It’s also extremely one-dimensional. The moment you meet each character, they are as they will be through the entire tale. And, you know what? That’s totally fine.
Chevalier establishes the time period and location without assaulting the reader with references or historical figures. I know nothing about the Netherlands in the 1600s but I hardly had to look anything up. Telling the story in first-person from the perspective of a never-left-town young woman helps a great deal. Griet’s world is contained to few settings and they can be described very simply: home, work, market, church.
I never like Griet and I never like anyone around her but the book is good fantasy escapism. Apparently, that’s a sweet spot for me.