In this richly imagined novel based on the life of seventeenth-century painter, Johannes Vermeer, Barbara Shoup evokes the artist's world through the eyes of his favorite daughter. Willful, dreamy, not-beautiful Carelina Vermeer is a trial to her wealthy Grandmother Thins, whose efforts to make her into a proper young lady are a constant source of tension in a large, loving, but quarrelsome family. Then, early one morning, she follows her sister to a house on the harbor where he is preparing to paint his ...
In this richly imagined novel based on the life of seventeenth-century painter, Johannes Vermeer, Barbara Shoup evokes the artist's world through the eyes of his favorite daughter. Willful, dreamy, not-beautiful Carelina Vermeer is a trial to her wealthy Grandmother Thins, whose efforts to make her into a proper young lady are a constant source of tension in a large, loving, but quarrelsome family. Then, early one morning, she follows her sister to a house on the harbor where he is preparing to paint his masterpiece, "View of Delft," and her real life begins.
As in the adult novels Girl with a Pearl Earring and Girl in Hyacinth Blue, this less-focused work imagines the domestic and artistic life of the 17th-century painter Johannes Vermeer, this time through the perspective of a fictional daughter, Carelina. Shoup (Wish You Were Here) characterizes Carelina as "plain," a spinster-in-the-making who shares her father's passion for art. Readers may balk at the unequivocal assessment of this daughter's looks, especially given the glowing face in the painting on the jacket, billed in the text as the protagonist's portrait. A prologue, set 21 years after Vermeer's death, presents Carelina as she attends an auction of his work; the auction prompts memories of her childhood years when her father embarked on her training as a painter. Shoup contrasts Carelina's domestic drudgery under the rule of her domineering grandmother with the broader attractions of her father's world. "Often, he held forth on the properties of pigments, describing each one with such enthusiasm, making its history and character, its quirky and unpredictable behaviors seem as fascinating as those of a living person," reports Carelina. While she offers some insights into the painter, life in Delft and contemporary philosophies, the author fails to establish compelling connections between characters, and even the central relationship between Vermeer and Carelina lacks sufficient clarity and depth to sustain the audience's attention. Ages 10-14. (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Obviously inspired by Tracy Chevalier's bestseller Girl with a Pearl Earring, Shoup offers up a fictionalized Vermeer for younger readers. Here the Dutch artist is seen through the eyes of Carelina, a daughter who may or may not have existed. (Vermeer fathered upwards of fifteen children, and few records of his life or family exist.) However, once one accepts the mythical daughter, Shoup builds a credible view of life in seventeenth-century Delft through the first-person-account of Carelina. The hectic family home, a mother always weakened by pregnancies, and the secret life of a Catholic family in a Protestant country are all well delineated. More to the point, the reader gets to watch Jan Vermeer paint through the eyes of his adoring daughter. Many of Vermeer's extant paintings are described in process—the most interesting his View of Delft, which is proposed as a collaboration between Vermeer and the optical scientist van Leeuwenhoek. Carelina's desire to become a painter moves the plot forward, and she is given a tidy ending within the constraints of her century. 2003, Guild Press, Ages 10 to 14.
— Kathleen Karr
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Readers of other novels about the famous painter will find the outline familiar. Vermeer and his ever-increasing family live in his mother-in-law's house in the Papist corner of Delft. Tanneke, the cook, prepares broodjes and hutsepot, and poses for her master. His patron, Van Ruijven, eagerly awaits each commissioned work. Verifiable information about the artist's home life is sketchy, so Shoup has fleshed it out into a warm, compelling story, creating a loving, but chaotic household for her narrator, a fictional middle daughter, Carelina. Aware of her stern grandmother's preference for her sisters, lovely Maria and pious Elizabeth, Carelina slips out of the house to visit her adored father in his studio. As she learns to grind pigments and peers through his magical camera obscura, she listens to him discussing philosophy and religion with the great men of his time. She puzzles over the ideas, but is more concerned with the people who make up her world. When she has a surprise encounter with an old friend of her father's, she discovers the artist within herself. In this book, the smells and tastes of delicious Dutch food, the bustle and excitement of the Grand Market Square, and the luminous glory of Vermeer's masterpieces are brought vividly to life.-Kathy Tewell, Chantilly Regional Library, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.