I first read this book when I was in high school; then I recommended it to my friend and when she finished she said something like: “Nothing was happening in this book, and yet I couldn’t stop reading.” I’m not sure if I agree with it, but I can tell for one thing that I also couldn’t stop reading. I’ve read it a few more times since then and I’ve seen the movie; and I can say that Girl with a Pearl Earring is definitely one of my favorite novels.
In the novel Griet, whose father lost his trade due to an accident, has to go and work for the painter, Johaness Vermeer, as a maid. The painter soon discovers that Griet, despite coming from a poorer family and having no education, has a natural gift of understanding and appreciating art. He uses her help with the paintings and soon the bond between them is formed. She gets caught in this new world of colors and canvases; a world she knows will never be a true part of her life. This relationship results in creating one of the world’s masterpieces that we know today – Girl With a Pearl Earring.
The story is the author’s version of how the famous painting with the same title came to life. When I was in college I read enough about Vermeer to know that most art experts don’t think it’s probable that the girl in the paining could be a maid, as it’s portrayed in the book. Well, I don’t care. For me it was the author’s idea and I loved this idea a lot – and the way it was portrayed. The author presents the times when Vermeer lived and painted with great care and attention. I loved reading about the making of the paintings, mixing colors, and about how the smallest thing mattered on the painting.
Even though for some it may seem like not much was going on, I still can honestly say I loved everything about the book. Each character, each setting, each little event that led to the conclusion. I especially loved Griet’s character, intelligent, insightful, quiet and withdrawn, but with a great love for art. Most of all, I loved that the author did not create any sexual relationship between Griet and Vermeer. Any feelings they might have had for each other were subdued and only very subtly told. There was no kissing, no groping, only the tension and the admiration. I loved how showing the hair and licking one’s lips were considered a big deal. Those were the times of innocence.
Of course, what’s innocent about one thing is cruel about the other. Those were also the times where the difference between classes were hugely – and painfully – visible. The social level you were born into was the social level you died in. The author did not forget about that and she made the realistic ending. Though I was a naïve idealist when I read the book for the first time, even then I knew a different ending would have ruined it.
I admit I may not be objective about this book, because I just adore it. I love the story, I love the slow pace it has, I loved all the descriptions and I loved the characters. So much that I made two montage videos about it back when I still had time for this stuff. One’s about Griet and Vermeer’s relationship, and the other is about Vermeer’s paintings that were mentioned in the novel: