Chevalier, Tracy. Girl with the pearl earring. New York: 2000. First edition 1999.
This book is about a maid whose name is Griet. She works for the family Vermeer. After her sister Agnes dies because of an epidemic of plague, everything becomes dull to her. From that moment Pieter’s interest in Griet increased. Griet’s parents want Griet to marry Pieter the son, but Griet is more in love with her master Johannes Vermeer. After the moment that Van Ruijven asks to Johannes to paint a painting of Griet, Griet’s secret assisting becomes very difficult. Cornelia Catherina’s favorite child, tries to frame Griet and Johannes and tell her mother about the errands and the chores Griet has to do for her master. This is the reason why Catherina finds out that Johannes had been painting Griet. Griet has to leave her job and starts to work for the butcher. She marries Pieter. A few years later when Johannes dies, Catherina gives her pearl earrings that Johannes used to complete the painting of Griet.
Griet is the main character of the book. The whole book is about her life. At the start of the story Griet lives home at her parents. Soon she lives at the house of the family Vermeer. Together with Tanneke she is a maid. Tanneke helps Griet with some stuff and errands but they don’t become friends. Tanneke is older than Griet and want to be the only maid in the house. She is jealous and irritated because Griet gets more attention than she does. Tanneke managed to check her irritation for several days, though soon she began again to scold and sulk, leaving it to me to placate her. Chapter 1664, page 79. Although Tanneke is very jealous, she is not evil to Griet like Cornelia. But it worked –Tanneke said nothing about my attic work to Catharina or the girls, or to me. Chapter 1665, page 121.When Tanneke knows anything about Griet, she gets very difficult opposite Griet. There are a few moments like this, for instance when Tanneke knows about Griet’s attic work.
Besides the bad relationship between Griet and Tanneke, Griet is also not loved by Catherina. Just like Tanneke she is irritated by the fact that she gets less attention by her husband than Griet gets. She turned to her husband. ‘Why,’ she asked, ‘have you never painted me?’ Chapter 1666, page 227.
Catherina and Johannes have a bad relationship. Catharina smiled at her husband. Invitations to his studio were rare. Chapter 1665, page 113 . Just like Johannes is not in love with his family he is not in love with Griet. The only thing he loves is his work. For Griet this is very difficult to see. She hopes that if he paint her, he will be in love with her. But this does not happen, Johannes loves the painting more that he loves Griet. This is why he did not stand up for Griet when Catherina finds out that Johannes used her pearl earrings for the painting. She was not going to admit to helping me get the earrings. Nor would he, I knew. Chapter 1666, page 226.
At the start of the first chapter Pieter falls in love with Griet. He tries to attract Griet but Griet is not attracted by Pieter because she is in love with her master. When I should be listening to Pieter I found myself thinking about my master. Chapter 1665, page 127. Although Griet was not attracted to Pieter, Pieter and Griet got a relationship. After several Sundays my parents became used to him. Chapter 1665, page 127. Griet’s parents needed the food of the butcher so the choice was made for Griet.
Because of a rumor that Griet’s master was going to paint Griet, Pieter the son was furious. (The last maid that was painted by Johannes Vermeer had slept with him.) Together with Maria Thins (the mother of Catharina) Griet made a plan to stop the gossip. Griet explained to Pieter that she would not be painted by Johannes. Although the relationship between Pieter and Griet became stronger, Griet still didn’t feel anything for Pieter. ‘I’ll make you happy, Griet,’ he said. ‘I will.’Chapter 1666, page 186.
Griet has made progress during her time as a maid. At the start of the story Griet was a little bit a fool. She did not know how everything worked in the house. She always flaps out what she thinks. I pressed my lips together. ‘Don’t look at me like that, Griet,’ my mother said. ‘We have to, now your father has lost his trade.’ Chapter 1664, page 6. At the end of the story she still flaps out what she thinks but now she flaps not everything out. That is why the other characters sometimes do not know what she is thinking. I might say, ‘What about the way he looked at me for so many hours while he painted this painting?’ I might say, ‘What about your mother and your husband, who have gone behind your back and deceived you?’ Or I might simply say, ‘Your husband touched me, here, in this room.’ They did not know what I might say. Chapter 1666, page 227.
Time and Structure
This story is about the painting the girl with the pearl earring. This painting is painted during the Middle Ages. So the story is set during this time. The book is split in four chapters. Every chapter begins with a page with the date of the year. The story took place between 1664 and 1676. The first three chapters consist the three first years of Griet working as a maid at the family Vermeer. The fourth chapter consist the year when Johannes Vermeer dies. Between the third and the fourth chapter there is a time warp. The years after Griet stopped working for the family Vermeer, where not quite as interesting as the year what is written in the fourth chapter. This is why the writer chose not to describe these years.
In the first chapter Griet starts to work for the family Vermeer. Rumor has it that the family needs a maid. Because Griet’s family needs the money, Griet has to work as maid for the family Vermeer.
After a while Griet’s sister Agnes dies because of an epidemic of plague. Pieter the butcher’s son gets interested in Griet because Griet has to buy meat for the family. Later in that year Catherina is pregnant and throws a party.
In the second chapter Griet begun to assist her Master. After Tanneke finds out that Griet is assisting her master Tanneke becomes very difficult with Griet. Soon also Cornelia finds out that Griet is assisting her father. After a while Griet’s parents finds out that Pieter is in love with Griet.
In the third chapter Griet starts to assist her Master for her own painting. Because the painting is not ready Griet has to wear Catherina’s earrings to give the painting more light. Right after Pieter the son asks Griet to marry him Catherina finds out that Johannes painted Griet and used her earrings. Griet has to leave her job.
In the fourth chapter Griet works for the butcher. Pieter the son and Griet marries and Griet gets a son. Because Johannes dies Griet has to go to the family Vermeer to pick up the pearl earrings. Johannes had reserved these earrings for Griet. Because Griet could not wear these earrings because of her poorness she sales the earrings and keeps the money.
The story is set in Holland. I do not know which place but it is somewhere in Holland. We all know what the weather be like; one day a rainy day another sunny.
In the begin the story takes place at Griet’s house. But soon the place changes and the story takes place at the house of the family Vermeer.
Point of View
The story is told in an I-perspective. Griet is telling the story. The reason why Griet is the narrator is because Griet is also the main character of the book.
The title of the book is Girl with the pearl earring. This is a very logical title because the whole story is about this girl with the pearl earring. The book has the same title as the title of the painting of this girl and is revered to that painting.
At the third page is written For my father. The auteur had written this book for her father. There is nothing said about this dedication in the Acknowledgements. I think the father of Griet and the father of the auteur are related but I don’t know how. Maybe there is an hidden message behind the story for her father, or her father is also blind as Griet’s father.
Opinion and theme
The book has the subject drama. Before I started to read the book I didn’t know anything about the book. I was only interested in the title because I love to paint. I silently hoped that the book was about love. I was a little bit disappointed that the book wasn’t all about love, but the strange thing is that because there was so much drama, I kept reading and reading. So I did not mind the subject at all.
As I was searching for more book reports of this book, I found out that the book is filmed.
The book has a dedication For my father. The father of Griet was blind, I think that these two persons have a resemblance. Griet was not fair to her father, because he was blind he couldn’t see that his daughter was lying to him. I think there is an emotional message in the book for her father.
It is a pity that this book is entirely a work of fiction, but at least I can now imagine a story for the painting of Vermeer. I think this is the reason why the auteur chose to write this book; to give the famous painting a background story, so that the visitors of the painting will see the painting in an different daylight.
In the beginning of the book there where a few events that really matter. Thefirst chapter contains a lot of descriptions of how (especially) Griet feels and thinks about people and situations. In the second chapter the whole chapter is about Griet’s assisting to her master. (This was for me the moment that I became more interested in the book.) From that moment Griet suffered because of her feelings for her master. From that moment the book build to the end the chapter. The end of the chapter was a start for more events. The master, Johannes Vermeer started with the famous painting; The girl with the pearl earring.
There are two events between the moment that Johannes was going to paint Griet and the last sentence of the last chapter. One event is the moment that Catharina finds out that her husband is painting one of their maids and used her pearl earrings. And the other event is the moment when Catharina gives her pearl earrings to Griet because in the will of Johannes Vermeer was written that after his death Griet gets the pearl earrings.
As I earlier said it is really a pity that this story is entirely a work of fiction. I think this story is very realistic. Especially Griet was very realistic. Because she tells the story from her perspective you can really good imagine why she does some things. For instance the moment after the plague she goes to her family to see if they are still alive.
I really like the ending of the book. After all these years that Griet left the family Vermeer, she didn’t know what was going on in the life of Catharina and Johannes. She run away from her life as a maid and left the family Vermeer broken. Now that she got the pearl earrings and the approval of Catharina to live her own life, Griet became free from her life as a maid. (as it was said at the last page, the last sentence)
The book is written in Great-Britain English, the book contains no dialect.
Some words in the book I did not understand, but after all the book was not very difficult to me.
The auteur used many long sentence. Sometimes I had to read a sentence twice if I did not paid enough attention to what I was reading.
I think it was a very moving moment when Griet finds out that her sister Agnes had died. I could really imagine the moment when Griet asks her mother about Agnes.
After all I should really recommend this book if you have always been into painting and drama.