My rating: 4 stars
Inspired by Johannes Vermeer’s famous portrait, Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier tells one of the many possible and plausible stories about the face that stands out from the painting’s dark background. The novel is narrated in the first person by sixteen-year-old Griet. She recalls how she came to sit for Vermeer in a historical fiction novel that features many interesting characters whose tribulations deserved to be even further explored.
In 1664, Griet became a maid at Vermeer’s household. She had to start working outside the home, because her family was struggling financially. After losing his eyesight in an accident, her father couldn’t continue to be a tiles painter and lost all his trade. Griet’s new job was not only to wash all their clothes and to buy meat or fish at the market, but also to clean Vermeer’s studio. When she arrived at their house, she was astonished at all the paintings. She didn’t have much free time to stare at them, though, as Johannes and his wife, Catharina, who was pregnant again, had five children, and his mother-in-law, Maria Thins, also lived with them.
Griet was only allowed to go home on Sundays. News about her parents and siblings, Agnes and Frans, were scarcer than she would have liked. It was Pieter, the son of the butcher at the market, who told her that the neighbourhood where her parents lived had been put into quarantine because of an outbreak of the plague. She wanted to go home immediately but was not allowed to. Pieter managed to find out for her that her sister was seriously ill. Continue reading