Gwen & Kate's Library

Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.

Gwen’s Thoughts on Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

This book is beautiful in its simplicity. I loved Tracy Chevalier’s unique writing style in Girl With a Pearl Earring for its clear, but never boring descriptions, and her ability to keep the reader interested in the story without constant action or drama.


Genres: Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Art History

Rating: 4


Tracy Chevalier’s second novel Girl with a Pearl Earring centers on Vermeer’s prosperous Delft household during the 1660s. When Griet, the novel’s quietly perceptive heroine, is hired as a servant, turmoil follows. First, the 16-year-old narrator becomes increasingly intimate with her master. Then Vermeer employs her as his assistant–and ultimately has Griet sit for him as a model. Chevalier vividly evokes the complex domestic tensions of the household, ruled over by the painter’s jealous, eternally pregnant wife and his taciturn mother-in-law. At times the relationship between servant and master seems a little anachronistic. Still, Girl with a Pearl Earring does contain a final delicious twist.



This book is beautiful in its simplicity. I loved Tracy Chevalier’s unique writing style in Girl With a Pearl Earring for its clear, but never boring descriptions, and her ability to keep the reader interested in the story without constant action or drama.

This book piqued my interest in Vermeer’s paintings and art in general, by calling attention to small details in his works and weaving the plot around them in a creative way. For instance, Griet, the protagonist, is a simple maid but has a talent for art and often sees missing pieces in Vermeer’s paintings, sometimes even before he does. In his painting “A Lady Writing,” a small scrap of blue cloth is draped over the desk. In Girl With a Pearl Earring, Tracy creatively explains this detail by describing how Griet went against her master’s instructions and moved the cloth to create some mess in the overly neat painting.

One confusing thing about this book was keeping the fiction separate from the facts. While reading, the reader has to keep in mind that Girl With a Pearl Earring is a historical fiction novel, and most of the background behind the painting and the actual model is unknown.

I was a bit disappointed because Vermeer was not a very well developed character, although most of the other characters were. The “romance” between Griet and Vermeer (or “him” as she calls him) was very odd and didn’t make sense. He was at least twice as old a she was, his wife was always in the house (and constantly pregnant), but more than that, there was no clear reason why Griet felt such an attraction to him. In addition, it wasn’t fully clear why she didn’t like Pieter, the butcher’s son who was courting her, other than her excuse that the blood under his fingernails made her feel sick.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Girl With a Pearl Earring, which clearly demonstrates Tracy Chevalier’s extensive knowledge about history, art, romantic tension, and literature.

About the Author: Tracy Chevalier

I recently went to an author lecture at Shelburne Museum about the recent release of the paperback version of Tracy’s latest book, The Last Runaway. She said many surprising things about her writing process and Girl With a Pearl Earring, so I looked her up when I got home. Her website is a wonderful place to look for information about her, her books, and the history behind them. I would recommend her video about her office and writing habits on the Look & Listen page, and her Answers to 23 Questions No One Ever Asks Me on her About Me page if you are interested.

She mentioned that her next book is in many sections, each starring a different species of tree. Currently she is working on the apple section and researching Johnny Appleseed. I love plants and how she combines history and science like in her novel Remarkable Creatures. I can’t wait for its release!


2 comments on “Gwen’s Thoughts on Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

  1. anna
    November 10, 2013

    YOU COMPLETELY MISSED THE LOVE POINT IN THIS BOOK when she says she can’t love peiter because of the blood under his fingernails, that’s her making up an excuse to justify her feelings. and it’s a crappy excuse — it’s supposed to be. There is no reason needed for her to like vermeer so much; people don’t need a definite reason to feel attraction for and even fall in love with a person. The entire thing is supposed to be ambiguous — her feelings are very unclear to her, and the ways they are clear she doesn’t want to accept because it’s improper. Vermeer senses her attraction, or she make up in her head the he does. either way, there’s a tension between the two of them which griet notices. His wife may be constantly pregnant, but that doesn’t mean vermeer loves her. it seems that he constantly brushes her off or thinks of her as an annoyance. LOVE IS COMPLICATED ESPECIALLY FOR GIRLS OF GRIET’S AGE

    • gwenkate
      November 11, 2013

      Anna – Thank you for explaining your interpretation of this book so thoroughly. Clearly you have much more experience (or at least claim to) than I do on the complications of love for a girl of Griet’s age. Nonetheless, even if you argue that one does not need a reason to love someone else, it does help in a book so that the reader can fully understand the character’s feelings. You say that the “entire thing is supposed to be ambiguous” and I completely agree that as you say, it is up to interpretation – clearly I thought of the book differently than you did. Just because I did this does not mean that I “completely missed the point.”
      Since you have such strong opinions on this book, what was you overall view on it? Did you enjoy it?

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This entry was posted on November 5, 2013 by in Author: Gwen, Review, Young Adult and tagged , .
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