Monday, May 2, 2011


Tracy Chevalier's novel is a fictitious background story for Johannes Vermeer's famous painting. The tale is plausible enough, told from the perspective of the girl in the painting. Griet is a teenager in 1664 who becomes a maid in the service of Vermeer's family, but the artist recognizes when he meets her that she is a good observer of color. She has placed her chopped vegetables in the shape of pie wedges, so that adjacent colors in the wheel are not similar. The prose is unpretentious and straightforward, evocative of the well-mannered Griet, making this book a quick read. I thought it rather predictable, especially with regard to the hurtful mischief that Vermeer's daughter Cornelia stirs up and the eventual role that Griet earns as Vermeer's assistant. Of course, we know from the outset that he will paint her, and it was handy to have a photo of the painting on the cover as a reference.

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