The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.
Share this review on
Tracy Chevalier has written 2 other works, one of which was Fallen Angel, which I started to read, but when read any book, I need to feel passionate about some element of it, and unfortunately, there was nothing to interest me in that. But this one, lets me begin by saying that 'fictional' history is her forte.
Set in Renaissance Holland, with enchanting, romantic and realistic descriptions, which luckily for me, do not take over what I feel to be the more important descriptive passages relating to emotions and characterisation, but do just enough to paint a pretty picture in my head of a place I've never seen before. For those who don't know, 'Girl with a pearl earring' is a painting by Johannes Vermeer, subject unknown. This story gives Chevalier the chance to imagine just who the model was in life, and she calls her, Griet.
Griet was the daughter of one of many tile painters in the city, and her family were well able to support themselves and their children, until that is, a horrific accident with a kiln took away her father's most essential tool as an artist, his sight. Griet is then forced to go work as a maid to Vermeer and his ever expanding family. As a protestant, in a catholic household, in a predomintantly protestant city, Griet finds life hard. Confused by the things she sees around her, the explicit paintings of Christ's life and demise, and alienated by the rest of the family, especially Vermeer wife, Catharina, his daughter's Cornelia, and a moody fellow servant, she finds she must tread carefully. There are only two refuges in Griet's life, Catharina's mother, Maria Thins, who although maintaining the distinction of rank, is a fair and wise mistress, and cleaning her master's art studio. She and Maria are the only ones alllowed in, and during the hours of careful cleaning, she finds peace and pleasure in the solitude.
Griet appears to be settling in as well as can be expected, but good things never last. Plague hits her family's street and she becomes an object of interest to Vermeer's patron, Van Rujiven, and with all the rumours surrounding this particular character she fears she must steer clear. But as Vermeer begins to trust her more than any other person, can she avoid him, not to mention the increasing scorn of Vermeer's wife and daughter, any longer?
To add a further twist to the plot, Griet's family begin to expect 'something' to come of her developing friendship with the butcher's son.
Can Griet please her family, her master's patron, and her master's family, whilst trying to control her ever growing feelings for her silent and grave master Vermeer? The plot thickens!
One obvious problem which I observed, and feel obliged to warn you all, as part of my duty, is that, without giving away any of the amazing plot, as a romantic, the amount of making do, putting a lid on emotions, and doing your duty rather than your desire, left me wondering if anyone ever got married for love alone?
On the other hand, Tracey Chevalier is a master at developing character. You are able to grow very attached to those who you are supposed to, she invoke sympathy and empathy at the drop of hat, and hatred and anger just as quick.
The narrative style of this book is simple, but oh so effective. It kept me so engrossed, that unlike other author's works, namely Austen, I had read it in two days flat. The enjoyment which this book gave me in that short time left me gagging for more, and wishing I had taken more time to finish it.
All that remians for me to say, is that if there is one book you buy this summer, it should be this one. Despite the mildly depressing air, and the fact that it leaves you dying for more, it is well worth the £7 you'll pay, a book which you'll read over and over again, and i think, will never tire of.