Griet is a young Dutch girl whose father has become blind. Lacking his income as a tile painter, Griet and her brother are forced to join the ranks of the working class. Though she has never been employed before, Griet is hired by the Vermeer family as a maid because they need someone who will be able to thoroughly clean Jan's studio without seeming to move anything, a talent Griet has learned by living with a blind father. Griet quickly learns that being a maid is not easy for either her mind or body. Her hands quickly become cracked, painful and red, and the realization that she must keep her thoughts to herself and only speak when spoken to is not easy. While living with and working for the Vermeer family, Griet grows up and learns many difficult life lessons, but also learns that she has the power to survive everything that an often "unfair" world might throw at her.
The painting "Girl With a Pearl Earring" was put to canvas by Jan Vermeer in 1665. In this fictional account of the painting of the work, Chevalier takes the reader back in time to 17th century Holland. This first novel is lyrical and touching. The characters, including the historically elusive Jan Vermeer, leap off the page and seem to take on a life all their own. This book will appeal to readers of historical fiction and literary fiction and should be of interest to fans of the arts as well.
Reviewed by aw, 1/02. Other reviews by aw.