Girl With a Pearl Earring
By: Tracy Chevalier
Paige’s Rating: (3) of 5
Recommended for: Historic Fiction
Girl with a Pearl Earring centers on Vermeer’s prosperous Delft household during the 1660s. When Griet, the novel’s quietly perceptive heroine, is hired as a servant, turmoil follows. First, the 16-year-old narrator becomes increasingly intimate with her master. Then Vermeer employs her as his assistant–and ultimately has Griet sit for him as a model. Chevalier vividly evokes the complex domestic tensions of the household, ruled over by the painter’s jealous, eternally pregnant wife and his taciturn mother-in-law.
This book was a completely in-the-middle-of-the-road read. I can’t say that I didn’t like it, because I did. But I can’t say that I liked it a lot, because I didn’t. Rather, it entertained.
The plot idea is creative in the fact that Chevalier attempts to build a story around the famous painting “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” by Vermeer, a painter and painting that historians really know very little about. Therefore, I do give her credit for taking a real piece of history and attempting to fashion a story to it. The author also does a fine job of describing the setting of the Netherlands in the 17th century.
However, the plot in and of itself is a bit bland. The story is told by a first person narrator called Griet, a young seventeen year old girl who becomes a maid for Vermeer’s wife. There is clearly conflict with Griet and Vermeer’s wife, a woman who wants to control her household, yet the real conflict to me seems to be the author’s ability to generate a believable romantic connection between Griet and Vermeer. I would have liked a little bit more scandal and a little bit more emotion and desire.
Which brings me to the next point: the characters were rather linear and undeveloped. Griet is young and naïve girl who falls in love with a quiet, brooding Vermeer. Yet, there is nothing about Griet’s character that helps me differentiate love for Vermeer or respect. Vermeer’s character is also really dry, and this may be caused by the lack of historical information on him. Overall, the characters felt really chilly throughout the book and their interactions were about as sexy as… slugs mating. Sorry, I had to say it again.
Like Vermeer, Chavalier can really paint a picture. Her images are wonderful but her storyline and characters lack raw human emotion. I wonder if maybe her audience is more of the young adult scene, not so much the almost-thirty-and-single-and-needing-to-read-about-love-because-its-dead-in-my-personal-life scene. Hmmm. If that’s the case, I say try it out. However, if you are looking for something that speaks a bit more to the adult side, dare I say passionate and raunchy side, definitely pass it.