This is considered by many Tracy Chevalier’s best novel. This was not my first encounter with the author though; it was her novel on Blake that first called my attention. I found a copy of Girl with a Pearl Earring on a charity shop the other day and decided that that would make for interesting weekend reading. I was not disappointed.
Chevalier brilliantly manages to use words to create the illusion of a world where words are hardly ever spoken. The silences in the novel are, in fact, its most eloquent feature. I find Vermeer’s silence towards and about Griet both overwhelming and soul shattering. Griet’s silence towards everyone around her is both empowering and despairing. Although it does give her strength to deal with people and situations that threaten her, it also entraps her into a life that I constantly feel is too small for her.
Her relationship with Vermeer is one where little is said and so much is concealed that we can never be quite sure of their feelings. Chevalier masterly deals with the master-servant romance theme without ever falling into Cinderella plot cliches. This is well-crafted writing and a good reading but it does leave you with a bitter after-taste. This is Jane Eyre without either true resolution or redemption.
Click here for the author’s website devoted to the novel.
Chevalier, T. (1999) Girl with a Pearl Earring. London: HarperCollins.