Girl with a Pearl Earring (Movie Tie-in Edition)

Girl with a Pearl Earring (Movie Tie-in Edition)

4.4 423
by Tracy Chevalier

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In seventeenth-century Delft, there's a strict social order—rich and poor, Catholic and Protestant, master and servant—and all know their place. When Griet becomes a maid in the household of the painter Johannes Vermeer, she thinks she knows her role: housework, laundry, and the care of his six children. She even feels able to handle his shrewd


In seventeenth-century Delft, there's a strict social order—rich and poor, Catholic and Protestant, master and servant—and all know their place. When Griet becomes a maid in the household of the painter Johannes Vermeer, she thinks she knows her role: housework, laundry, and the care of his six children. She even feels able to handle his shrewd mother-in-law; his restless, sensual wife; and their jealous servant. What no one expects is that Griet's quiet manner, quick perceptions, and fascination with her master's paintings will draw her inexorably into his world. Their growing intimacy sparks whispers; and when Vermeer paints her wearing his wife's pearl earrings, the gossip escalates into a full-blown scandal that irrevocably changes Griet's life.

Written with the precision and focus of an Old Master painting, Girl With a Pearl Earring is a vivid portrait of colorful seventeenth-century Delft, as well as the hauntingly poignant story of one young girl's rite of passage.

Editorial Reviews
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
The unknown subject of a Vermeer masterpiece is the basis for this remarkably evocative novel. The illiterate young Griet, held captive by the strict social order of 17th-century Delft, becomes a maid in the household of Johannes Vermeer to help support her family. She knows her role well: tend the laundry, keep up with the housework, and make sure Vermeer's six children stay out of the way. Griet even thinks she can handle Vermeer's shrewd mother-in-law, his bitter, neglected wife, and the family's jealous servant. But what no one suspects is that Griet's quiet manner, uncanny perception, and fascination with her master's paintings will draw her inexorably into the painter's private world. And as Griet witnesses the creative process of a great master, her long-suppressed passion becomes the catalyst for a scandal that irrevocably changes her life. (Summer 2000 Selection)
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
It's great strength is its projection of a complex, emotional universe onto an intimate canvas. The details, like the world of colors that Vermeer found in a single fold of white cloth, add up to more than the sum of their parts.
Plain Dealer
Girl With a Pearl Earring, the second novel by Tracy Chevalier is the richest, most rewarding novel I have read in 1999. The strong, complex relationship between these two lover and beloved, powerful and powerless - is played out with subtlety and grace. Chevalier's way of resolving it is as fitting as it is haunting.
SF Chronicle Review
Girl With a Pearl Earring is an engaging fictionalization. Fittingly, Chevalier's writing style adopts a painterly approach: The elegant prose evokes contemplation, the pace is slow and cumulative the drama emotional rather than visceral. Looking at the painting after having read the novel. The reader thinks, Yes, Chevalier got it right - that was the story hidden behind those eyes, silent for centuries.

Our response to the Sept. 11 horror is exactly right. The only opposition seems to be coming from academic left-wingers who fancy themselves fashionable in their constant and now-frantic efforts to blame America, even for Sept. 11.

Had we failed to launch the continual, strong attacks that we have, we would have told terrorists around the world that it is safe to attack America with impunity. The road we have chosen is the right one. It will be long, and not without risk. If the patience and strength of our country matches those of our leadership, we will win.


This annual review of books read during the summer in Maine is appearing now because far more important events intervened. These books, however, are worth reading anytime.

John Adams (Simon & Schuster, $35) is David McCullough's magisterial and altogether wonderful bi-ography. Joseph Ellis' 1993 biography of Adams began the process of demonstrating how much we owe to this most extraordinary of our founding fathers. McCullough completes the rescue of our second President from the comparative obscurity to which the far better known lives of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin had seemingly condemned him.

Adams, a Massachusetts farmer and lawyer, was a proud descendant of the Puritans and outdid some of them in his rigid rectitude. He had a towering intellect, refined and toned by his Harvard education. He scorned those of lesser intellect and some who simply disagreed with his firmly held opinions. Anyone subjected to his disdain was not likely to forget it.

Adams worked endlessly for causes he believed in, especially personal liberty and freedom fromoppression. He was unwilling to compromise in the least on anything remotely resembling a matter of principle. But these character-istics enabled him and his sometimes irritated colleagues (no mean intellects themselves) to work together to produce our democracy. We probably would never have taken the extreme step of severing relations with Great Britain without Adams' relentless pursuit of what he saw as necessary to secure our freedom and our future.

Some of the finest chapters are those involving Adams' responsibilities representing the Colonies' interests in France, which led to France's committing troops to our Revolution. In all this Adams was far more than aided by his extraordinary wife, Abigail. Almost a dual biography, this book includes perhaps the first full appreciation of how much Abigail contributed to the Revolution and our nation's birth.

The summer was also enlivened by a controversial little book, The Jefferson-Hemings Myth: An American Travesty (Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, $11.95). Ten contributors, including editor Eyler Robert Coates Sr. and Bahman Batmanghelidj, offer virtually irrefutable proof that Jefferson did not father a child by Sally Hemings, a myth that many have come to accept.

Three novels, brilliantly written, with fascinating narratives, completed this summer's fare. Readers may recall my unbounded admiration for James Webb, one of our finest war novelists since Stephen Crane. It is a pleasure to re-port that Webb's Lost Soldiers (Bantam Books, $25) is fully up to his high standards--taut with skillfully nar-rated realism. It is a tale of the search for two American traitors who caused the death of Marines in a remote outpost in Vietnam. No one else has ever conveyed better the dangers, risks and horrors of our war in Vietnam. Once again we see and live through the misery, terror and hardship of infantry fighting in that strange land--a land that Webb has clearly come to love.

Death in Holy Orders, by P.D. James (Knopf, $25), is the latest of the Adam Dalgliesh mysteries. An ordinand's death at a small theological college leads into a tale of multiple murders and horribly sacrilegious acts, along with the familiar descriptions and character studies that distinguish all of Baroness James' works. This is a most reward-ing and skillfully constructedexample of the classic mystery as told by a master of the art.

One of the nicest short books I've read in a long time is Girl With a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier (Plume, $12). This is the tale of painter Johannes Vermeer and his tumultuous household in 1660s Holland. But it is also the story of his 16-year-old housemaid and model, Griet, who sat for the glorious portrait "Girl With a Pearl Ear-ring." This is a most delightful lesson in art history, as well as a study in vivid contrasts between Vermeer's life and that of his most famous model.
—Caspar Weinberger

Denise Kersten
Chevalier's imagination adds life to an already brilliant painting in this elegantely developed and beautifully written novel.
USA Today
Katie Flatley
Thank goodness a picture can be worth more than a thousand words. Tracey Chevalier has written a vibrant, sumptuous novel about the enigmatic subject of a painting. Ms. Chevalier doesn't put a foot wrong in this triumphant work, the latest of several recent novels based Vermeer paintings. It is a beautifully written tale that mirrors the elegance of the painting that inspired it.
Wall Street Journal
New Yorker
Absorbing novel ... as Chevalier's writing skill and her knowledge of seventeenth-century Delft are such that she creates a world reminiscent of a Vermeer interior: suspended in a particular moment, it transcends its time and place.
New York Times Book Review
Chevalier's exploration into the soul of this complex but naïve young woman is moving, and her depiction of 17th-century Delft is marvelously evocative.
Christian Science Monitor
This is a luminous novel!
VOYA - Voya Reviews
After her father is hurt in an accident, sixteen-year-old Griet helps support her family by working as a maid for the Johannes Vermeer family. Griet's life there is difficult because she is Protestant and the Vermeer family is Catholic, and also because both Vermeer's wife, Catharina, and one of his daughters seem to resent the young maid. As Griet gradually learns more about Vermeer's methods of painting, the artist begins to take an interest in the girl. He even allows her to help grind the colors used in his paints and asks for her thoughts on his work. When Vermeer offers Griet the chance to pose as the model for one of his paintings, the girl makes a decision that changes her life forever as she becomes the girl with a pearl earring. Author Chevalier has woven a lyrical story of art and one girl's coming of age in seventeenth-century Holland. Chevalier's writing glows with the same luminosity that infuses Vermeer's paintings, and she skillfully evokes the book's historical setting and gives readers a fascinating protagonist. Teens, especially those who enjoy historical fiction, are certain to be drawn to Griet's story as she struggles with her responsibilities to her family, deals with the romantic attentions of a local merchant's son, and tries to find her own place in the world. This story, which was inspired by one of Dutch painter Vermeer's masterpieces, is highly recommended for both school and public libraries. VOYA CODES: 5Q 3P S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2000, Dutton, Ages 16 to Adult, 233p, $21.95. Reviewer: John Charles
To quote KLIATT's Jan. 2001 review of the Recorded Books audio edition: In 1664 Delft, 16-year-old Griet, child of a family fallen on hard times, is hired to clean—without appearing to move anything—the studio of master painter Johannes Vermeer. Her hands become rough with the additional work in a household where babies arrive regularly. She is paid little because Vermeer paints only two or three pictures a year (his lifetime total was only 35). She has an eye for things artistic, acquired from her tile-maker father, and her duties expand to grinding the materials Vermeer uses as pigments. Romantic feelings surge between her and Vermeer, whom she refers to as "He." She begins a romance with "Peter the son," a local butcher, whom she thinks of marrying. She also, to her consternation, catches the eye of a powerful, philandering merchant, who wants a picture of her. So came to be painted the masterpiece called "Girl With a Pearl Earring." Art lovers, adults, and teens who seek romantic themes will enjoy this fictional story of a young woman's infatuation with an unavailable man while both a lecherous adult and an appropriate love vie for her. We glimpse the culture and technology of the day. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1999, Plume, 234p, 20cm, 99-32493, $12.00. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Edna M. Boardman; former Lib. Media Spec., Magic City Campus, Minot, ND, March 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 2)
Library Journal
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 Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
YA-A fictional account of how the Dutch artist Vermeer painted his masterpiece. In this splendid novel, the girl in the painting is Griet, the 16-year-old servant of the Vermeer household. The relationship between her and Vermeer is elusive. Is she more than a model? Is she merely an assistant? Is the artist's interest exaggerated in her eyes? The details found in this book bring 17th-century Holland to life. Everyday chores are described so completely that readers will feel Griet's raw, chapped hands and smell the blood-soaked sawdust of the butcher's stall. They will never view a Dutch painting again without remembering how bone, white lead, and other materials from the apothecary shop were ground, and then mixed with linseed oil to produce the rich colors. YAs will also find out how a maid from the lower class, whose only claim to pearls would be to steal them, becomes the owner of the earrings.-Sheila Barry, Chantilly Regional Library, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Ron Charles
With wonderfilly effective restraint, Cheavalier captures the glances and brief comments that gradually lead Griet into her master's studio, his painting, and finally his heart.
The Christian Science Monitor
The New Yorker
...absorbing...Chevalier's writing skills and her knowledge of seventeenth-century Delft are such that she creates a world reminiscent of a Vermeer interior: suspended in a particular moment, it transcends its time and place.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.86(h) x 0.65(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

In the morning he asked me to come up in the afternoon. I assumed he wanted me to work with the colors, that he was starting the concert painting. When I got to the studio he was not there. I went straight to the attic. The grinding table was clear—nothing had been laid out for me. I climbed back down the ladder, feeling foolish.
He had come in and was standing in the studio, looking out a window.

'Take a seat, please, Griet,' he said, his back to me.

I sat in the chair by the harpsichord. I did not touch it—I had never touched an instrument except to clean it. As I waited I studied the paintings he had hung on the back wall that would form part of the concert painting. There was a landscape on the left, and on the right a picture of three people—a woman playing a lute, wearing a dress that revealed much of her bosom, a gentleman with his arm around her, and an old woman. The man was buying the young woman's favors, the old woman reaching to take the coin he held out. Maria Thins owned the painting and had told me it was called The Procuress.

'Not that chair.' He had turned from the window. 'That is where van Ruijven's daughter sits.'

Where I would have sat, I thought, if I were to be in the painting.

He got another of the lion-head chairs and set it close to his easel but sideways so it faced the window. 'Sit here.'

'What do you want, sir' I asked, sitting. I was puzzled—we never sat together. I shivered, although I was not cold.

'Don't talk.' He opened a shutter so that the light fell directly on my face. 'Look out the window.' He sat down in his chair by the easel.

I gazed at the New Church tower and swallowed. I could feel my jaw tightening and my eyes widening.

'Now look at me.'

I turned my head and looked at him over my left shoulder.

His eyes locked with mine. I could think of nothing except how their grey was like the inside of an oyster shell.

He seemed to be waiting for something. My face began to strain with the fear that I was not giving him what he wanted.

'Griet,' he said softly. It was all he had to say. My eyes filled with tears I did not shed. I knew now.

'Yes. Don't move.'

He was going to paint me.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"A portrait of radiance...Chevalier brings the real artist Vermeer and a fictional muse to life in a jewel of a novel." —Time magazine

"A vibrant, sumptuous novel...triumphant...a beautifully written tale that mirrors the elegance of the painting that inspired it." —The Wall Street Journal

"The richest, most rewarding novel I have read this year." —The Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Outstanding." —USA Today

"Marvelously evocative." —The New York Times

"Superb...vividly captures the world of 17th century Delft." —The San Francisco Chronicle

"Tracy Chevalier has so vividly imagined the life of the painter and his subject that you say to yourself: This is the way it must have been." —The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"A jewel of a novel." —The Miami Herald

Meet the Author

"I was born and grew up in Washington, DC. After getting a BA in English from Oberlin College (Ohio), I moved to London, England in 1984. I intended to stay 6 months; I’m still here.

"As a kid I’d often said I wanted to be a writer because I loved books and wanted to be associated with them. I wrote the odd story in high school, but it was only in my twenties that I started writing ‘real’ stories, at night and on weekends. Sometimes I wrote a story in a couple evenings; other times it took me a whole year to complete one.

"Once I took a night class in creative writing, and a story I’d written for it was published in a London-based magazine called Fiction. I was thrilled, even though the magazine folded 4 months later.

I worked as a reference book editor for several years until 1993 when I left my job and did a year-long MA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich (England). My tutors were the English novelists Malcolm Bradbury and Rose Tremain. For the first time in my life I was expected to write every day, and I found I liked it. I also finally had an idea I considered ‘big’ enough to fill a novel. I began The Virgin Blue during that year, and continued it once the course was over, juggling writing with freelance editing.

"An agent is essential to getting published. I found my agent Jonny Geller through dumb luck and good timing. A friend from the MA course had just signed on with him and I sent my manuscript of The Virgin Blue mentioning my friend’s name. Jonny was just starting as an agent and needed me as much as I needed him. Since then he’s become a highly respected agent in the UK and I’ve gone along for the ride."

Brief Biography

London, England
Date of Birth:
October 19, 1962
Place of Birth:
Washington, D.C.
B.A. in English, Oberlin College, 1984; M.A. in creative writing, University of East Anglia, 1994

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Girl with a Pearl Earring 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 423 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I actually watched the film first and I liked it, so I decided to give the book a chance and loved it! This is Holland in the 17th century where a young girl named Griet is forced to work at the house of Vermeer. She tells the story in first person. I felt her pain having to leave home at such a young age. Women did not have many options during that era, either give in to men or be cast out, which Griet battled with. So many times I thought her and Vermeer would make a love connection, and Chevalier definitely added that romantic stress to the plot. As for the painting, the pearl earring was Vermeer's wife's possession and she was quite the vindictive lady, which unfortunately, Griet had to deal with the wrath of her jealousy.
LostInMyBook More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was really good it was very easy to read and the story had a great plot. I thought this book was a lot better than the movie. I would recommend this book to anybody who wants to read a great book.
Fiction_Fanatic More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book, simply written, easy to read yet allows the reader to imagine each scene and event. Great plot that explores who could be the subject of Vermeer's painting. This book looks into what a young girl might think and feel back then and easily relates to readers of the present day.
StacieRosePittard More than 1 year ago
I was very disappointed in this book. Considering how popular it is, I figured there would be more of a story to it. It's a short read, but I felt like I had to force myself through it. Page after page I was waiting for something to happen, but nothing really did. The best way I can describe this book is to think of a dime store romance novel, but take away the romance. You're left with practically nothing. No point. I'm not saying I am disappointed in this book's lack of romance, but I am saying that there could have at least been a point to it if romance was thrown in there. As it is, there's just nothing to it. The main character (Greit) lacked any sort of personality. She is one of the most boring and plain characters I've ever read in a novel. She rarely had emotion, and when she did have emotion, it was hard to believe. Almost as if the author tried to randomly throw in character development for the sake of development, rather than allowing the character's personality to naturally appear throughout the story. I don't mean to completely dismiss the book. The overall details were interesting, particularly where Greit started and how she got to where she ended. It would have been a great book had the author simply been better at writing and putting together a story. That was no the case though.
Awesomeness1 More than 1 year ago
Excellent novel. It used great imagery and an interesting plot. But I still thought it was missing. There was something preventing it from being extraordinary. Maybe it was the last page, which dissatisfied me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i chose this book along with another book for my summer reading. at first i was hesitant bc i had gotten mixed reviews about this book and remembered the movie to a little on the solemn and boring side. i started to read this book though giving it a chance and i am so happy i did. i absolutely loved this book. it is now one of my favorites and i enjoyed it thorughly. it was the perfect blend of history, drama, romance, and intrigue that makes a book fascinating from start to end. even thought it was summer,school related reading i really loved this book and reccommend it to anyone who likes hidden stories behind art and a great read. it took me into another world and into a world i had never read anything about. overall i thought this novel was amazing and the description and narration caught my attention from start to finish.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was assigned this book for english class, but after reading it I was very surprised. It was a great book that I never put down. Griet, the main character, is forced to work as a maid for the painter Vermeer. This book tells the story of a young girl faced with choices and struggles as she enters adulthood. There is drama, romance, and an acurate description of what life was probably like for a poor girl living in Holland in the 1600s. Its great for anyone who has ever looked at a painting and wondered what kind of story was hidden behind it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an awful book. There is absolutley no story here that is worth telling. It is about a petulant and petty family and a maid. I truly do not understand how anyone can enjoy such a mundane and awful book with no real story or resolution.
a_vanwinkle More than 1 year ago
The novel begins in the 1600's in the Dutch city of Delft. Here lives a 16 year-old girl, Griet who leaves her family to work for the famous artist, Vermeer. She is sent out to work because of the lose of her father's eye sight. When Vermeer seeks out Griet, he sees the artistic talent she has by the way she separates her vegetables. As she begins to live with the family Griet is inspired by her creating a painting of her. In this novel the peal earring is significant in the book. However, you will have to read more to find out!! I would choose this book if you love love stories and art history. I chose this book according for my love of art history. I highly recommend this book and I hope you enjoy it as well!!!
kai_surf More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written with complex characters and the lovely backdrop of 1600s Holland. Intense, sensual, and saddening at the same time. A MUST READ! :)
gwoodKH08 More than 1 year ago
The book has such amazing imagery along with a great true story. It is not your typical love story, and this book brings something new to the table that I have not seen in a while.This is one of my favorite books I have read this year.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is so amazing, it changed me. It changed the way I saw life, and the way I acted towards men. In a good way. I love this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Are you looking for the perfect novel that is has just the right amount of romance, fact, and fiction, to keep you sucked in from beginning to end? well then look no further, this is the book for you. I was hooked from page one!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is on the top of my 'read again when im 21' books. This book was simply written, easy to understand, and had a clear plot, with some romance and scandalosity among those things. I recommend this book to anyone who likes romance, action, and historical fiction
TronChild More than 1 year ago
An enchanting novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shana Treadway More than 1 year ago
You mean i can only give this a 5 star rating! I read this after i saw the movie and i was so happy to find they did very close to the book. This is a must read. You will not be disappointed. Beautifully written.
JConMartin More than 1 year ago
Congrats to Tracy Chevalier for this vivid characterization of an artist, his motley family, and his reticent model. Highly Recommended. James Conroyd Martin Author of Push Not the River & Against a Crimson Sky
Lizbiz5396 More than 1 year ago
Tastefully done. A read that is difficult to put down. A classical masterpiece.
Joanne Baird More than 1 year ago
I like the historical setting of this book. Good read.
Ellen Bruton More than 1 year ago
A very well written book; felt very believable! Had a very romantic feel and was hard to put down!
Vicky Lee More than 1 year ago
one of the greatest books by far, top ten on my list of must read books! it took me a little bit to get into it, but once i got into it i couldnt put it down! i found myself under the covers reading with my flashlight like a little kid again!
samline16 More than 1 year ago
This book was very good, I read it in english class and I really enjoyed it. If you are a fan of historical fiction and you are looking for a book I reccomend this one it is very good and I am defiantly a huge fan
Izzie_reads_books More than 1 year ago
It was a good book and I enjoyed it very much. The movie went with the book very much too. It only left out some of the ending and a few other stuff.
Aimee_Leon More than 1 year ago
Girl with a Pearl Earring was a stunning merge of history & fiction. Tracy Chevalier has done marvalous writing with her creative imagination. To think the Johannes Vermeer painting inspired Chevalier for the main character of the story Griet just by looking at that famous painting of that girl. It is a beautiful portrait that has been admired through out the world. The plot centers a young girl named Griet who was forced to work as a maid for the Vermeer family. The setting is in Holland at the 1600s. When Griet begins to work at that house, she encounters Master Johannes Vermeer. Griet & Vermeer form a unique and artistic friendship. Often people may confuse it as a love affair. Griet doesn't only find a new relationship, she also gets finds her own share of choices and struggles obstecles as she enters to adulthood. All of beautifully expessed into this amazing novel. Chevalier writing takes you to another time. Anyone is a true history buff would enjoy it.