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  Library Journal Review

Set in 17th-century Delft, this historical novel intertwines the art of Johannes Vermeer with his life and that of a maiden servant in his household. From the few facts known about the artist, Chevalier creates the reality of the Netherlands. The parallel themes of tradesman/artist, Protestant/Catholic, and master/servant are intricately woven into the fabric of the tale. The painters of the day spent long hours in the studio, devising and painting re-creations of everyday life. The thrust of the story is seen through the eyes of Griet, the daughter of a Delft tile maker who lost his sight and, with it, the ability to support his family. Griet's fate is to be hired out as a servant to the Vermeer household. She has a wonderful sense of color, composition, and orderliness that the painter Vermeer recognizes. And, slowly, Vermeer entrusts much of the labor of creating the colored paints to Griet. Throughout, narrator Ruth Ann Phimister gives a strong performance as the enchanting voice of Griet. Highly recommended. Kristin M. Jacobi, Eastern Connecticut State Univ., Willimantic (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Booklist Review

Inspired by Vermeer's painting of the same name, Chevalier creates an elegant and intriguing story of how a young peasant girl came to have her portrait painted. It is seventeenth-century Holland, and 16-year-old Griet is obliged to take a job as a maid for the artist Vermeer after her father loses his eyesight in an accident. She does the laundry, cares for the six children, and cleans house, but her easy manner and natural artistic perceptions ingratiate her to Vermeer, and she finds herself drawn into his world--mixing colors, cleaning his studio, and standing in for his models. This new intimacy between master and servant crosses strict social divisions, inspires jealousy in his wife, Catharina, as well as the other maid, and sparks rumors in town. At the insistence of his patron, Vermeer paints Griet wearing his wife's pearl earring. When Catharina sees the painting, a scandal erupts, and Griet is forced to make some life-altering decisions. This is a beautiful story of a young girl's coming-of-age, and it is delightful speculative fiction about the subject in a painting by an Old Master. --Carolyn Kubisz

  Kirkus Review

England-based Chevalier's first US appearance is another novel based on a painting of Vermeer (see Susan Vreeland's Girl in Hyacinth Blue, p. 998). The tale this time is told'alluringly indeed'by the housemaid who sat as model for the painting in question. Griet is only 16, in 1664, when she's hired as a maid in the grand Delft household of Johannes Vermeer, who practices the Catholic faith and has a family consisting of wife, mother-in-law, cook, and 5 children (by story's end there will be 11). Griet's own faith is Protestant, and her humble family has been made even poorer since her father, a tile-painter, had an accident that left him blind. Hard-working and sweet-tempered Griet is taken on, then, partly as an act of charity, but the austere and famous painter is struck by her sensitive eye for color and balance, and after a time he asks her to grind paints for him in his attic studio'and perhaps begins falling in love with her, as she certainly does with him. Let there be no question, however, of anything remotely akin to declared romance, the maid's station being far, far below the eminent painter's, not to mention that his bitterly jealous wife Catharine remains sharply resentful of any least privilege extended to Griet'a complication that Vermeer resolves simply through intensified secrecy. There's a limit, though, to how much hiding can be done in a single house however large, and when Griet begins sitting for Vermeer (his patron, the lecherous Ruijven, who has eyes'and hands'for Griet, brings it about), suspicions rise. That's as nothing, though, to the storm that sweeps the house and all but brings about Griet's very ruin when Catharine discovers that the base-born maid has committed the thieving travesty of wearing her pearl earrings. Courageous Griet, though, proves herself a survivor in this tenderhearted and sharp-eyed ramble through daily life'and high art'in 17th-century Delft. Another small and Vermeer-inspired treasure.
Summary
Chevalier transports readers to a bygone time and place in this richly imagined portrait of the young woman who inspired one of Vermeer's most celebrated paintings. "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is the story of 16-year-old Griet, whose life is transformed by her brief encounter with genius, even as she herself is immortalized in canvas and oil. Copyright © Libri GmbH. All rights reserved.
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