Tuesday, May 20, 2008


this is the first book i've read by chevalier
and i truly enjoyed it. she has a clear quiet
prose which is my favorite to read. unlike
some historicals which get burdened down
by description to try and set the era, the
author is able to create the period with her
simple storytelling.

set in 17th century holland, the story takes
place in the city of delft.
griet is forced to become the maid of the
painter vemeer's large family after her father
loses his eyesight in a work accident. she
is only allowed to return home on sundays,
and enters the papist corner of the city for
the first time, where vemeer and his
ever-expanding family lives.

his wife catherina immediately takes a
dislike to griet, and one daughter decides
to make her life difficult by playing mean
pranks. griet finds that she is drawn to her
master, vermeer, and he secretly asks her
to help him grind the vivid colors he uses
to paint his masterpieces.

her life is complicated by interest shown
by pieter, the son of a butcher at the market.
while vermeer's biggest patron, van ruijven
makes overt passes at her. van ruijven finally
convinces vermeer to paint griet, and she
finds that she will do anything to remain
close to her master, whom has always intrigued,
and whom she now desires.

the painting culminates in her dismissal
as a maid when vermeer's very pregnant
wife sees the intimate portrait her husband
has painted of griet. the nail in the coffin
is the fact that griet is wearing her mistress'
pearl earrings--which sends the woman into
a jealous rage.

throughout, chevalier does a fine job of
setting tone and voice for her tale. we can
understand the desire griet feels for her
master, and his for her, without it ever
becoming sexual. the only thing that threw
me was chevalier's overuse of similes and
metaphors in the first few pages of the novel.
(tho all were done well, they were so many
i noticed as a writer.)

afterward, her writing only drew me into
the story, and i read with pleasure until
the very end. i definitely recommend this
novel. as an aside, i had to learn more
of vermeer and this painting after reading
the story--which shows you how much
i was intrigued. the painting is called the
dutch mona lisa. in truth, i find this painting
much more compelling.


Leigh Russell said...

I agree, this is a well written book that flows along very easily. The idea of writing the story behind the painting is an intriguing one. I wonder if anyone has tackled the Mona Lisa?

cindy said...

oooh, leigh! there's your book for you! =D it's interesting to see how many ideas could be out there for us to ponder and grasp!

i'm not one to get a lot of ideas...

ChrisEldin said...

I commented on your blog about this book, and want to thank you for your review. It's on my (coffee-stained) list of books to buy and read for the summer.