The Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Have you ever wondered what inspired great artists? How their masterpieces started and what it took to complete them? If so, and if you enjoy speculative fiction about great artists, their muses, and how their famous works came to be this is a book for you.

In her debut novel, Chevalier tells the story of Griet, a teenage girl in Holland during the Renaissance, whose family falls on hard times when her father can no longer work. Griet must work to support her family and becomes a maid servant at the residence of renowned Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. At first, she is just a maid; then Vermeer notices her. She progresses from maid to his assistant until finally she is modeling for him in what would become the eponymous painting. Tensions strain as Vermeer focuses more and more on Griet and less on his wife, children, and wealthy art patrons. He coerces Griet into new situations and calls into question the foundations of her moral beliefs and values. But the painting is the only thing predictable about this story. There are many layers to this tale that make it seem like true history.

I picked up this book because I recognized the image on the cover as a Vermeer painting. I had been to a rare Vermeer exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., when I was 10, probably too young to appreciate his art. His style, however, is instantly recognizable by the tiny pinpoints of white he uses to signify light.

Even if you’re not a fan of art-related or historical fiction, read this book to experience Chevalier’s bewitching prose. The story unfolds at a deliciously glacial pace and in painstaking earnest, much like the painting itself. She has a unique writing style that makes the reader want to read more. I am confident you’ll want to devour all of her novels.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

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