Girl With a Pearl Earring: A Review

This is one of the rare cases in which I saw the movie before I read the book, quite by accident actually. The movie came on one of the movie channels when we had a three month free trial of the Premium Channels or something and I watched it, completely unaware that it was in fact a book first. Of course nowadays almost every other movie was a book first. I liked the movie, but did feel that it left me a bit empty, as if it were unfinished. When I saw the book, Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, in a book store on sale I thought, why not? Maybe it'd fill that emptiness that the movie left with me.

So I picked up the book during my Europe trip. I figured I was visiting Holland, maybe it'd give me some insight in the history of the country while also being an enjoyable read! And it did just that and more. Chevalier takes an artist shrouded in mystery and intrigue, a private man who led an interesting and quiet life. And she took a painting completely uncharacteristic of him and wrote the story of it. The artist is Johannes Vermeer and the tale is one of class, lust, jealously and perhaps even love, but above all, art. Chevalier has the ability to write descriptions that mix the senses. She'll describe a smell with an image for example and somehow it works perfectly. Her language is absolutely beautiful and I have to admit I was in love with her writing.

The conflicting character of Griet was developed more strongly in the book than in the movie. In the movie I felt as if Griet was almost a shadow, I wasn't really sure who she was or what she was about. But the book is told from Griet's point of view and so I know Griet intimately in the book, which I really enjoyed. I felt the inner struggle within herself to stay true to her morals and her upbringing as well as her struggles to maintain herself in a household full of jealously and resentment. Griet is an admirable character, one who can be proud, is flawed, but is also strong and passionate. Vermeer is a character that is shrouded in mystery, such as he was in real life, but also one of kindness and beauty. Having had a chance to view some of his paintings in person while in Amsterdam, I can say that the book makes you feel like he's the most magnificent painter in the world, when in fact he is good, most of his paintings are not as special as Girl With a Pearl Earring, which is why the story of the painting is layered with the myth and romance that it is.

The book inspired me to take a day trip to Delft, the setting of the story, while in Holland. It was fun and exciting to wander the town in which Vermeer lived and to see places mentioned in the book. I had chosen books that took place in the places we'd be going specifically and had wondered how it'd work out. In this case, a movie and a book that I had stumbled upon accidentally turned out to be the perfect fit with my Europe trip and has become one of my favorite reads. Yes, I'm a hopeless romantic and this book is filled with that tight tension of admiration and desire, but it is also a beautiful book that is within itself a painted masterpiece.


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