The Girl With the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

My mother recommended this book as a potential book club book, but there weren’t enough in the library system for that to work. There was an ebook, though, that I could read on vacation.

Published: 1999

Genre: historical fiction

Length: 233 pages

Setting: Delft, 1664-1676

Summary: Short version: It’s the women who suffer because of a genius in their lives

Long version: Griet’s family has fallen on hard times so she is sent off to be a maid for the Vermeer family. Griet is fascinated by Vermeer and his painting, but she needs to make her place among the women of the family. One of the daughters is particular, Cornelia, takes an aversion to Griet and makes mischief whenever she can. Problems arise for Griet when Vermeer decides she should help him with his painting, without discussing the change with his wife who is banned from his studio. Griet loves working with the paints and was willing to put up with the difficulties for that joy. Everything comes to a head when Vermeer paints her wearing his wife’s earrings. She walks out and married the butcher boy.

Final thoughts: An enjoyable bit of historical fiction with an interesting premise. We are in the famous painter’s house, but the story is told from the point-of-view of the maid. Vermeer is very stand-offish and a bit passive-aggressive. He wants Griet to do chore for him, but won’t talk to his wife about it even though it’s obvious there will be strife in the household. Griet is just expected to make it work. It doesn’t help that Cornelia likes to stir the pot and get Griet into trouble. At least Griet had somewhere to go when she was kicked out of the Vermeer household. I don’t think she was entirely happy about having to marry the butcher boy. At least he liked her and could provide for her and her family. In that time period, that was about all you could expect from a marriage. It was better than going back to her poor parents in disgrace. The reader is left a little in suspense when Griet walks out of the Vermeer household. She goes to the compass rose built into one of the roads that was a great metaphor for her life. Which direction was she going to choose?

Title comes from: The name of the painting Griet sat for, which is a description of the image. I appreciated that they used that painting as the cover so you could flip to the cover and look at the details being discussed in the book.

Reading challenges fulfilled: book #45 for 2018 and a G in my Title Reading the Alphabet Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!


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