Girl With a Pearl Earring, the novel


Girl with a Pearl Earring Back in 2006, I had seen Girl with a Pearl Earring, and loved it so much that I felt like reading the novel by Tracy Chevalier. I have such a pile of books awaiting, and don’t do much reading these days, I must admit. And that pile has been growing due to Christmas presents!
Anyway, I really loved Griet, the eponymous girl with a pearl earring, a maidservant at Vermeer’s. It’s written in the first person and gives you an insight into the Vermeer household. Griet’s first encounter with Vermeer who is looking for a maid, takes place while she is chopping vegetables for the soup:

I always laid vegetables out in a circle, each with its own section like a slice of pie. There were five slices: red cabbages, onions, leeks, carrots and turnips. I had used a knife edge to shape each slice, and placed a carrot disc in the center. The man tapped his finger on the table. ‘Are they laid out in the order in which they will go into the soup?’ he suggested, studying the circle. ‘No, sir.’ I hesitated. I could not say why I had laid out the vegetables as I did. I simply laid them as I felt they should be, but I was too frightened to say so to a gentleman. ‘I see you have separated the whites,’ he said, indicating the turnips and onions. ‘And then the orange and the purple, they do not sit together. Why is that?’ He picked up a shred of cabbage and a piece of carrot and shook them like dice in his hand. I looked at my mother who nodded slightly. ‘The colours fight when they are side by side, sir’.

Once I had read this (p. 5), I was caught, had to read on and found the rest of the book enthralling. Now I feel like watching the movie again. 😉 Tracy Chevalier clearly says that Girl with a Pearl Earring is a work of fiction, but her Griet sounds so true! I also felt that it taught me much about painting, mixing colours and life in Holland at the time of Vermeer. I liked it much better than Fallen Angels, another Chevalier novel I’ve read. A must read.


10 thoughts on “Girl With a Pearl Earring, the novel

  1. Yes, I loved the book, too. We just saw Atonement which is based on an English author’s book and it was very good. Both the book and the movie.

    The description of how the vegetables are sorted out — one can imagine seeing them, photographically. I can see why that description caught your (photographer’s) eye!

  2. Yes, Claude, I agree! I read this book a good while ago and loved it — may read it again. Haven’t seen the movie — lots of times I don’t want to see the movie if I have really liked the book, I’m afraid it will ruin my mental pictures. That’s probably overly picky…oh well!

  3. You selected one of my favourite quotations from the book. Movies never stand up to what the book looks like in my mind. For me Griet in the movie wasn’t as in tune with light and colour as the Griet in the book.

  4. Dear Claude,
    As a retired English teacher I now read about 122 books a year while I walk and run errands–an MP3 player is the best thing since sliced bread and my eyes do not let me peruse the pages I was once able to consume. If you thought this book was good, the audio version adds a depth you would have to experience to believe. What I love about audio books is that one’s imagination is allowed to flourish for the characters jump out of the story as the narrator changes voices for each one. I read only the unabridged ones downloaded from or those full length ones available from my library as i don’t want to miss a word.

  5. I saw the original painting, HEAD OF A GIRL, in 1983, at the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto). It was part of the exhibition: Dutch Painting of the Golden Age. What I remember is the luminous softness of the girl’s face with only a shiny suggestion of a pearl earring. I still have the 9×11 catalogue of the 40 paintings, with “Griet” on the cover. After meeting her through Vermeer, 25 years ago, it will be fun to read her story, and to see her in action. I did not know about Tracy Chevalier’s novel, and the film. Thank you, Claude.

  6. Claude, I also love this book. I thought the movie was filled with beautiful and lush photography. Scarlett Johansen was perfect in the role

    GWPE resides in my living room. The cover of the book is so lovely

    Thanks for reminding me.

  7. I loved both the book and the movie, and agree that “Fallen Angels” was nowhere as good. It always amazes me how an author can do that … have one spectacular book and then fizzle out.

  8. Pingback: Listening to audiobooks and podcasts « Blogging in Paris

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