Cover image for Girl with a pearl earring
Title:
Girl with a pearl earring
Author:
Chevalier, Tracy.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Dutton, 2000.

©1999
Physical Description:
233 pages ; 21 cm
Language:
English
Reading Level:
770 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.4 11.0 49824.

Reading Counts RC High School 6.9 16 Quiz: 22121 Guided reading level: NR.
ISBN:
9780525945277
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

In seventeenth-century Delft, there's a strict social order -rich and poor, Catholic and Protestant, master and servant -and all know their place. When Griet becomes a maid in the household of the painter Johannes Vermeer, she thinks she knows her role: housework, laundry, and the care of his six children. She even feels able to handle his shrewd mother-in-law; his restless, sensual wife; and their jealous servant. What no one expects is that Griet's quiet manner, quick perceptions, and fascination with her master's paintings will draw her inexorably into his world. Their growing intimacy sparks whispers; and when Vermeer paints her wearing his wife's pearl earrings, the gossip escalates into a full-blown scandal that irrevocably changes Griet's life.Written with the precision and focus of an Old Master painting, Girl With a Pearl Earring is a vivid portrait of colorful seventeenth-century Delft, as well as the hauntingly poignant story of one young girl's rite of passage.


Author Notes

Tracy Chevalier was born on October 19, 1962 in Washington, D.C. After receiving a B.A. in English from Oberlin College, she moved to England in 1984 where she worked several years as a reference book editor. Leaving her job in 1993, she began a year-long M.A in creative writing at the University of East Anglia.

She is the author of several novels including The Virgin Blue, Burning Bright, Remarkable Creatures, and The Last Runaway. Her novel Girl with a Pearl Earring was made into a film starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Inspired by Vermeer's painting of the same name, Chevalier creates an elegant and intriguing story of how a young peasant girl came to have her portrait painted. It is seventeenth-century Holland, and 16-year-old Griet is obliged to take a job as a maid for the artist Vermeer after her father loses his eyesight in an accident. She does the laundry, cares for the six children, and cleans house, but her easy manner and natural artistic perceptions ingratiate her to Vermeer, and she finds herself drawn into his world--mixing colors, cleaning his studio, and standing in for his models. This new intimacy between master and servant crosses strict social divisions, inspires jealousy in his wife, Catharina, as well as the other maid, and sparks rumors in town. At the insistence of his patron, Vermeer paints Griet wearing his wife's pearl earring. When Catharina sees the painting, a scandal erupts, and Griet is forced to make some life-altering decisions. This is a beautiful story of a young girl's coming-of-age, and it is delightful speculative fiction about the subject in a painting by an Old Master. --Carolyn Kubisz


Publisher's Weekly Review

The scant confirmed facts about the life of Vermeer, and the relative paucity of his masterworks, continues to be provoke to the literary imagination, as witnessed by this third fine fictional work on the Dutch artist in the space of 13 months. Not as erotic or as deviously suspenseful as Katharine Weber's The Music Lesson, or as original in conception as Susan Vreeland's interlinked short stories, Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Chevalier's first novel succeeds on its own merits. Through the eyes of its protagonist, the modest daughter of a tile maker who in 1664 is forced to work as a maid in the Vermeer household because her father has gone blind, Chevalier presents a marvelously textured picture of 17th-century Delft. The physical appearance of the city is clearly delineated, as is its rigidly defined class system, the grinding poverty of the working people and the prejudice against Catholics among the Protestant majority. From the very first, 16-year-old narrator Griet establishes herself as a keen observer who sees the world in sensuous images, expressed in precise and luminous prose. Through her vision, the personalities of coolly distant Vermeer, his emotionally volatile wife, Catharina, his sharp-eyed and benevolently powerful mother-in-law, Maria Thins, and his increasing brood of children are traced with subtle shading, and the strains and jealousies within the household potently conveyed. With equal skill, Chevalier describes the components of a painting: how colors are mixed from apothecary materials, how the composition of a work is achieved with painstaking care. She also excels in conveying the inflexible class system, making it clear that to members of the wealthy elite, every member of the servant class is expendable. Griet is almost ruined when Vermeer, impressed by her instinctive grasp of color and composition, secretly makes her his assistant, and later demands that she pose for him wearing Catharina's pearl earrings. While Chevalier develops the tension of this situation with skill, several other devices threaten to rob the narrative of its credibility. Griet's ability to suggest to Vermeer how to improve a painting demands one stretch of the reader's imagination. And Vermeer's acknowledgment of his debt to her, revealed in the denouement, is a blatant nod to sentimentality. Still, this is a completely absorbing story with enough historical authenticity and artistic intuition to mark Chevalier as a talented newcomer to the literary scene. Agent, Deborah Schneider. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Set in 17th-century Delft, this historical novel intertwines the art of Johannes Vermeer with his life and that of a maiden servant in his household. From the few facts known about the artist, Chevalier creates the reality of the Netherlands. The parallel themes of tradesman/artist, Protestant/Catholic, and master/servant are intricately woven into the fabric of the tale. The painters of the day spent long hours in the studio, devising and painting re-creations of everyday life. The thrust of the story is seen through the eyes of Griet, the daughter of a Delft tile maker who lost his sight and, with it, the ability to support his family. Griet's fate is to be hired out as a servant to the Vermeer household. She has a wonderful sense of color, composition, and orderliness that the painter Vermeer recognizes. And, slowly, Vermeer entrusts much of the labor of creating the colored paints to Griet. Throughout, narrator Ruth Ann Phimister gives a strong performance as the enchanting voice of Griet. Highly recommended. Kristin M. Jacobi, Eastern Connecticut State Univ., Willimantic (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


School Library Journal Review

YA-A fictional account of how the Dutch artist Vermeer painted his masterpiece. In this splendid novel, the girl in the painting is Griet, the 16-year-old servant of the Vermeer household. The relationship between her and Vermeer is elusive. Is she more than a model? Is she merely an assistant? Is the artist's interest exaggerated in her eyes? The details found in this book bring 17th-century Holland to life. Everyday chores are described so completely that readers will feel Griet's raw, chapped hands and smell the blood-soaked sawdust of the butcher's stall. They will never view a Dutch painting again without remembering how bone, white lead, and other materials from the apothecary shop were ground, and then mixed with linseed oil to produce the rich colors. YAs will also find out how a maid from the lower class, whose only claim to pearls would be to steal them, becomes the owner of the earrings.-Sheila Barry, Chantilly Regional Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

In the morning he asked me to come up in the afternoon. I assumed he wanted me to work with the colors, that he was starting the concert painting. When I got to the studio he was not there. I went straight to the attic. The grinding table was clear--nothing had been laid out for me. I climbed back down the ladder, feeling foolish. He had come in and was standing in the studio, looking out a window. 'Take a seat, please, Griet,' he said, his back to me. I sat in the chair by the harpsichord. I did not touch it--I had never touched an instrument except to clean it. As I waited I studied the paintings he had hung on the back wall that would form part of the concert painting. There was a landscape on the left, and on the right a picture of three people--a woman playing a lute, wearing a dress that revealed much of her bosom, a gentleman with his arm around her, and an old woman. The man was buying the young woman's favors, the old woman reaching to take the coin he held out. Maria Thins owned the painting and had told me it was called The Procuress. 'Not that chair.' He had turned from the window. 'That is where van Ruijven's daughter sits.' Where I would have sat, I thought, if I were to be in the painting. He got another of the lion-head chairs and set it close to his easel but sideways so it faced the window. 'Sit here.' 'What do you want, sir'' I asked, sitting. I was puzzled--we never sat together. I shivered, although I was not cold. 'Don't talk.' He opened a shutter so that the light fell directly on my face. 'Look out the window.' He sat down in his chair by the easel. I gazed at the New Church tower and swallowed. I could feel my jaw tightening and my eyes widening. 'Now look at me.' I turned my head and looked at him over my left shoulder. His eyes locked with mine. I could think of nothing except how their grey was like the inside of an oyster shell. He seemed to be waiting for something. My face began to strain with the fear that I was not giving him what he wanted. 'Griet,' he said softly. It was all he had to say. My eyes filled with tears I did not shed. I knew now. 'Yes. Don't move.' He was going to paint me. Excerpted from Girl with a Pearl Earring: A Novel by Chevalier, Tracy Chevalier 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.

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