Griet is a 16-year-old girl living in 1660’s Holland. Her father has been blinded by his work and it is up to Griet to live at the house of the painter Johannes Vermeer as a maid. Here she is accepted by Vermeer himself and his mother-in-law Maria Thins, but despised by the lady of the house, Catharina, and one of the daughters, Cornelia. Cornelia is out to do real damage to Griet, while Vermeer is her champion.
The relationship between Vermeer and Griet is a complicated one. Griet is being sought by the butcher’s son, but her sexual awakening is due to Vermeer. Vermeer allows Griet to become his assistant and the two spend their days together in the studio. When Griet is forced to sit for a painting she knows it will ruin her, but she appreciates the hours she and Vermeer spend staring at one another, the longing filling the small studio.
I saw the movie when it came out in 2003 and thought it was a bit slow, so I was in no hurry to read the book, but I was wrong not to have read it first. The book was wonderfully done. It is the story of Griet and what life was like for a girl in her time. She had so few options, if any, and she still managed to maintain her independence in small ways. It is also an imaginative tale of the story behind the girl in the painting. I love art museums, looking at a painting and trying to take myself back to when it was painted and this book did that for me.
I do admit that while I liked Griet she really did frustrate me at times. People in the house mentioned on many occasions how smart and cunning she was and yet I didn’t feel that. The author told me she was special, but I was never really convinced. She was a young girl caught up in a life out of her control and that is enough, no need to tell me I should think she is the most misunderstood maid ever.
I liked it and now I may have to watch the movie again even though I didn’t love it the first time.
This audio was from the library.