Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier: CD Audiobook CoverFinished audio 12-07-09, rating 4/5, fiction, pub. 1999

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.

14 thoughts on “Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier

  1. CeeCee says:

    I enjoyed the movie. I’m not sure I’d have the patience to read the book. Huh, never thought to listen to it.

    Sometimes I listen to ones I know I’ll never take the time to read!

  2. Literary Feline says:

    I’ve never actually thought to read this book, to be honest. I saw the movie years ago and liked it though. I may just have to give it a try. Thanks for the great review, Stacy.

    It’s a fairly quick read.

  3. Susan says:

    Oh yes, the book is so much better than the movie. I read it when it first came out on a recommendation from my Art History friend. Three things the movie had going for it: 1. Colin Firth. 2. The lighting was very good and came close to recreating Vermeer’s brilliance in that realm. 3. Colin Firth.

    Hee hee. You are so right! Colin Firth was the only good thing I remember about the movie 🙂

  4. ds says:

    I enjoyed the book, but had no desire to see the movie…oh well.

    I went with a friend who really wanted to see it. I wouldn’t have chosen it either.

  5. Staci says:

    I loved this book and the movie. I would recommend that you watch the movie again now that you’ve listened to the audio.

    I’ll have to put it on hold at the library.

  6. Nicole says:

    I really enjoyed the book as well. The position that she was in made me mad. I don’t think the movie mad as much as an impression on me, even though I saw it, I can barely remember it.

    That’s exactly how I feel about the movie.

  7. bermudaonion says:

    I didn’t even know about the movie. The book does sound good. It’s sad the way women were treated back then – I’m sure glad I didn’t live during those times.

    Yes, we’re definitely better off now.

  8. Bumbles says:

    I liked the movie. I still find it remarkable how alike Scarlett Johannson looked to the girl in the real painting.

    I actually just finished reading a non-fiction book about a master forger of Vermeer’s work which was quite interesting set against the backdrop of WW2 and questionable Nazi collaborators in the art world – The Man Who Made Vermeers.

    I’ve heard of this one. I’ll have to look for it. And Scarlett really was the perfect actree for the part.

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