Friday 2 September 2011

Review: Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Girl With a Pearl Earring tells the story of Griet, a 16-year-old Dutch girl who becomes a maid in the house of the painter Johannes Vermeer. Her calm and perceptive manner not only helps her in her household duties, but also attracts the painter's attention. Though different in upbringing, education and social standing, they have a similar way of looking at things. Vermeer slowly draws her into the world of his paintings - the still, luminous images of solitary women in domestic settings. (via

I've wanted to read this book for years – ever since watching the film with Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth (who, by the way, should have long hair all the time... Rawr!) No idea why it took me so long to pick it up, but I couldn't hold it off any longer!

 I found Griet, our narrator, at times a little monotone; speaking in a way that striked me as overly passive and disconnected. However, where Griet's words come to life are the moments where she portrays everyday observations in a uniquely artistic manner. For example, this is how she illustrates Catharina Vermeer during their first meeting:
The woman's face was like an oval serving plate, flashing at times, dull at others. Her eyes were two light brown buttons, a colour I had rarely seen coupled with blond hair.
Such words comparable to this pop up all over the novel, and provide a truly enlightening connection to the prose, the painting and the character's personality. I guess this was Chevalier's intention  – she wanted to put across that Griet would seem to us and to others dull and expressionless, unless lucky enough to delve into her artistically intuitive mind.

With this considered, I did really enjoy the story. I couldn't remember every detail from the film as it has been a couple of years since I've watched it, so there were a few parts that surprised me. I'd recommend you read Girl With A Pearl Earring if you have an interest in art, historical settings and evocative, sensual fiction.

Rating: 4 / 5