Cover image for Girl in hyacinth blue
Title:
Girl in hyacinth blue
Author:
Vreeland, Susan.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
[Denver] : [MacMurray & Beck], [1999]

[©1999]
Physical Description:
242 pages ; 19 cm
Language:
English
Reading Level:
950 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.2 7.0 67937.
ISBN:
9781878448903
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

The smashingingly successful novel about a supposed Vermeer painting that is traced back through the centuries to the moment of its inspiration.


Author Notes

Susan Vreeland was born in Racine, Wisconsin on January 20, 1946. She received a bachelor's degree in literature from San Diego State University. After graduating, she taught high school English in San Diego from 1969 to 2000. In 1980, she began writing articles about art, culture, and travel for newspapers and magazines. Her first novel What Love Sees was published in 1988. Her other novels include Girl in Hyacinth Blue, The Passion of Artemisia, Luncheon of the Boating Party, Life Studies, The Forest Lover, Lisette's List, and Clara and Mr. Tiffany. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous publications including The Missouri Review, Ploughshares, New England Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Connecticut Review. She died after heart surgery on August 23, 2017 at the age of 71.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Reading Vreeland's new book is like opening up a Chinese box: each chapter reveals a new layer of meaning and import. The "novel" follows the trail of an "unknown" painting by the Dutch master Vermeer--The Girl in Hyacinth Bluefrom the time of its creation in seventeenth-century Holland to the present day. In each of the eight independent but chronologically linked chapters, the painting shows up as a prop in the lives of different owners, and in telling the circumstances under which these people acquire or lose the painting, Vreeland gives the readers a sense of the evolution of Dutch social history. The first chapter opens with the discovery of the painting in the basement of a mathematician. It turns out that he inherited it from his father, who was a Nazi looter in Holland during World War II. The second chapter features the circumstances of the Jewish family from whom the painting was stolen. The remaining chapters take the readers further back into Dutch history until the final, or rather the original, moment when Vermeer decided to paint the portrait of his daughter, a young girl dressed in hyacinth blue. True to the spirit of Vermeer, Vreeland uses art as a vehicle for capturing special moments in the lives of ordinary people; true, too, to Vermeer's legacy, she creates art that brings a unique pleasure into the lives of ordinary readers. --Veronica Scrol


Publisher's Weekly Review

As Keats describes the scenes and lives frozen in a moment of time on his Grecian urn, so Vreeland layers moments in the lives of eight people profoundly moved and changed by a Vermeer painting a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Vreeland opens with a man who suffers through his adoration of the painting because he inherited it from his Nazi father, who stole it from a deported Jewish family. She traces the work's provenance through the centuries: the farmer's wife, the Bohemian student, the loving husband with a secret and, finally, the Girl herself Vermeer's eldest daughter, who felt her "self" obliterated by the self immortalized in paint, but accepted that this was the nature of art. Descriptions of the painting by people in different countries in various historical periods are particularly beautiful. Each section is read by a different narrator, some better than others. Several add dimension to the story and writing, while others are so intent on portraying the book's ethereal qualities they make the listener conscious of the reader instead of the language. Still, this is a delightful production. Based on the MacMurray & Beck hardcover (Forecasts, July 12, 1999). (Dec. 2001) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

"Pearls were a favorite item of Vermeer," observes Cornelius Engelbrecht, the secretive and obsessive professor whose conviction that he owns an authentic Vermeer launches Vreeland's lovely first novel. The painting, we soon discover, was taken from its proper (Jewish) owner by Engelbrecht's father, a German soldier during World War IIÄa fact that Engelbrecht struggles mightily to suppress. The one colleague to whom he shows the painting guesses the truth and derisively recommends that he burn itÄ"one good burning deserves another"Äbut we don't learn the fate of the painting. Instead, Vreeland constructs a series of vignettes, not necessarily chronological, that takes us from the rooftops of Amsterdam Jews forced to kill the pigeons they are no longer allowed to keep, to a Dutch merchant whose possession of the painting briefly complicates his marriage, to the boudoir of a French counsel's bored wife and the second story of a farmhouse in flooded Holland, and finally to the home of Vermeer himself, where art does battle with domestic necessity. Though the connections among the vignettes could be made clearer, and the ending feels abruptÄhow did that painting get from the artist to the weary professor, and what finally happens to it?Äeach vignette has the stillness, the polish, and the balanced perfection of a Vermeer. Not quite perfect, but definitely a pearl. Griet, the "girl with the pearl earring," may be a pearl herselfÄfair, soberminded, and gentleÄbut the novel in which we find her is not quite so polished. Chevalier (The Virgin Blue) writes a little plainly of her heroine, forced when her father is blinded in an accident to work as a maid in the home of Vermeer. Eventually, Vermeer asks her to pose for a paintingÄwearing his wife's earringsÄwhich causes a scandal and Griet's determined departure from the household. The artist's coaxing of the reluctant sitter is delicately rendered, but otherwise this text fails to ignite.ÄBarbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Cornelius Engelbrecht invented himself. Let me emphasize, straight away, that he isn't what I would call a friend, but I know him enough to say that he did purposely design himself: single, modest dresser in receding colours, mathematics teacher, sponsor of the chess club, mild-mannered acquaintance to all rather than a friend to any, a person anxious to become invisible. However, that exterior blandness masked a burning centre, and for some reason that became clear to me only later, Cornelius Engelbrecht revealed to me the secret obsession that lay beneath his orderly, controlled design. It was after Dean Merrill's funeral that I began to see Cornelius's unmasked heart. We'd all felt the shock of Merrill's sudden death, a loss that thrust us into a temporary intimacy uncommon in the faculty lunchroom of our small private boys' academy, but it wasn't shock or Cornelius's head start in drinking that snowy afternoon in Penn's Den where we'd gone after the funeral that made him forsake his strategy of obscurity. Someone at the table remarked about Merrill's cryptic last words, "love enough," words that now sting me as much as any indictment of my complicity or encouragement, but they didn't then. We began talking of last words of famous people and of our dead relatives, and Cornelius dipped his head and fastened his gaze on his dark beer. I only noticed because chance had placed us next to each other at the table. He spoke to his beer rather than to any of us. " 'An eye like a blue pearl,' was what my father said. And then he died. During a winter's first snowfall, just like this." Cornelius had a face I'd always associated with Piero della Francesca's portrait of the Duke of Urbino. It was the shape of his nose, narrow but extremely high-bridged, providing a bench for glasses he did not wear. He seemed a man distracted by a mystery or preoccupied by an intellectual or moral dilemma so consuming that it made him feel superior, above those of us whose concerns were tires for the car or a child's flu. Whenever our talk moved toward the mundane, he became distant, as though he were mulling over something far more weighty, which made his cool smiles patronizing. "Eye like a blue pearl? What's that mean?" I asked. He studied my face as if measuring me against some private criteria. "I can't explain it, Richard, but I might show you." In fact, he insisted that I come to his home that evening, which was entirely out of character. I'd never seen him insist on anything. It would call attention to himself. I think Merrill's "love enough" had somehow stirred him, or else he thought it might stir me. As I say, why he picked me I couldn't tell, unless it was simply that I was the only artist or art teacher he knew. He took me down a hallway into a spacious study piled with books, the door curiously locked even though he lived alone. Closed off, the room was chilly so he lite a fire. "I don't usually have guests," he explained, and directed me to sit in the one easy chair, plum-coloured leather, high-backed and expensive, next to the fireplace and opposite a painting. A most extraordinary painting in which a young girl wearing a short blue smock over a rust-coloured skirt sat in profile at a table by an open window. "My God," I said. It must have been what he'd wanted to hear, for it unleashed a string of directives, delivered at high pitch. "Look. Look at her eye. Like a pearl. Pearls were favourite items of Vermeer. The longing in her expression. And look at that Delft light spilling onto her forehead from the window." He took out his handkerchief and, careful not to touch the painting, wiped the frame, though I saw no dust at all. "See here," he said, "the grace of her hand, idle, palm up. How he consecrated a single moment in that hand. But more than that--" "Remarkable," I said. "Certainly done in the style of Vermeer. A beguiling imitation." Cornelius placed his hands on the arm of the chair and leaned toward me until I felt his breath on my forehead. "It is a Vermeer," he whispered. Excerpted from Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Love Enoughp. 1
A Night Different From All Other Nightsp. 36
Adagiap. 60
Hyacinth Bluesp. 82
Morningshinep. 109
From the Personal Papers of Adriaan Kuypersp. 155
Still Lifep. 198
Magdalena Lookingp. 224

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