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Girl with a Pearl Earring

"A masterful contemporary classic in which a sharply perceptive young woman discovers her artistic eye when she becomes maid - and later assistant, model and muse - to Vermeer and finds herself trapped in a web of subjugation."

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20th Anniversary Edition

When Griet’s father, a notable tile-maker, is blinded she goes to work for artist Vermeer to support her destitute family. She’s an outsider from the start, a poor Protestant in a well-to-do Catholic household who’s regarded with suspicion by her fellow staff, especially when she alone is entrusted to venture into the master’s studio. Soon enough Griet experiences the magic of artistic creation, of seeing colour anew, of seeing everything anew. But, as her passion for art is aroused so too is an ache of guilt as she grows ever distant from her family. Then there’s the attention and lusts of the handsome butcher’s son who seeks her hand in marriage, and the lascivious approaches of her master’s wealthy patron. The intrigue and tension of the Vermeer household, and the ebb and flow of life in a 17th century Dutch market town are described in painterly detail through Griet’s keenly observant eyes as a swelling scandal spills to the outside world from within the duplicitous household. 

At once a compelling page-turner and a tour de force of tension and coming-of-age turmoil, this novel remains a must-read for historical fiction fans some twenty years after publication.

Joanne Owen

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Reader Reviews

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I have read this book so many times. And even after re-reading this book so many times, it is and will always remain one of my favourite books, a story that is evergreen and has such an emotional story worth retelling.

Tracy Chevalier has been inspired by the artwork of Johannes Vermeer, and his most famous painting, the Girl with a Pearl Earring, that she decided to write a story of what she believes might have happened behind that painting.... Read Full Review

Ivana Atanasova

Slow, seductive historical fiction. An exquisite and evocative read.

Griet’s life changes when she is forced into servitude due to her father’s ill health. As a maid in the house of artist, Johannes Vermeer, she is forced to work long hours in an inhospitable environment, fearful of her master and wary of her cold mistress. Griet soon captures her master’s eye, however, and begins to secretly mix paints for him before eventually being persuaded to pose for him. Vermeer’s mother-in-law, who lives with them, distrusts Griet, but knowing that Vermeer must continue to work to provide for the family enters into a secret pact with the girl.... Read Full Review

Clare Wilkins

A great classic of historical fiction about a world-famous portrait.

A great classic of historical fiction.

This 20th anniversary reissue of Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring shows how great writing really stands the test of time.

The narrative concerns Griet, a character Chevalier has invented to build her story around the anonymous girl in Vermeer’s famous painting. Griet joins the Vermeer household in Delft initially as a maid of all work and one of her tasks is to keep the studio clean whilst avoiding the artist himself. Eventually however, she becomes involved in the artist’s studio work, assisting with preparing the paints and finally is forced to undertake the modelling role for the portrait.

Chevalier’s craftsmanship in evoking the atmosphere of mid-17th century Delft and relating the tensions between Griet and the family members is as skilful as Vermeer’s artistry.... Read Full Review

Linde Merrick