More About Tracy Chevalier & Marie-Odile Fortier-Masek
"I was born and grew up in Washington, DC. After getting a BA in English from Oberlin College (Ohio), I moved to London, England in 1984. I intended to stay 6 months; I m still here.
"As a kid I d often said I wanted to be a writer because I loved books and wanted to be associated with them. I wrote the odd story in high school, but it was only in my twenties that I started writing real stories, at night and on weekends. Sometimes I wrote a story in a couple evenings; other times it took me a whole year to complete one.
"Once I took a night class in creative writing, and a story I d written for it was published in a London-based magazine called Fiction. I was thrilled, even though the magazine folded 4 months later.
I worked as a reference book editor for several years until 1993 when I left my job and did a year-long MA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich (England). My tutors were the English novelists Malcolm Bradbury and Rose Tremain. For the first time in my life I was expected to write every day, and I found I liked it. I also finally had an idea I considered big enough to fill a novel. I began The Virgin Blue during that year, and continued it once the course was over, juggling writing with freelance editing.
"An agent is essential to getting published. I found my agent Jonny Geller through dumb luck and good timing. A friend from the MA course had just signed on with him and I sent my manuscript of The Virgin Blue mentioning my friend s name. Jonny was just starting as an agent and needed me as much as I needed him. Since then he s become a highly respected agent in the UK and I ve gone along for the ride." Tracy Chevalier is the New York Times bestselling author of six previous novels, including Girl with a Pearl Earring, which has been translated into thirty-nine languages and made into an Oscar-nominated film. Her latest novel is The Last Runaway. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., she lives in London with her husband and son.
Reviews - What do customers think about La Jeune Fille a la Perle / Girl with a Pearl Earring?
A STUNNING WORK OF HISTORICAL FICTION... Dec 29, 2004
This gifted author weaves a mesmerizing tale around Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer's most famous painting, creating an incandescent and luminous work of her own. His painting is a simple, though enigmatic, portrait of a girl with a pearl earring, about which little is known. The author, however, a born storyteller, creates a living, breathing story around it, using a singular, first person narrative. Told in spare, elegant prose, the author leaps into literary renown with this book.
The events in the book are viewed through the eyes of Griet, a sixteen year old Dutch girl, whose changed family circumstances force her into taking a position as a maid in the home of a renowned painter, the taciturn Johannes Vermeer. There, the painter resides with his tempestuous wife, Catharina, their brood of unruly children, his commanding and shrewd mother-in-law, Maria Thins, and their loyal housekeeper and cook, Tanneke. The author lovingly details seventeenth century life in the Dutch city of Delft. It is here that Griet's story unfolds.
Sensitive and perceptive, Griet is attuned to the under currents in the Vermeer household and, at first, takes care not to draw attention to herself. Still, she, the daughter of a tile painter, is curious about Vermeer's artistry and is drawn to his work and his methods. Vermeer, sensing a kindred artistic spirit in Griet, draws her into his world of paint, color, light, and beauty, creating an intimacy of the spirit between the two.
Still, Griet, a girl on the brink of becoming a woman, finds herself confused and breathlessly desiring more than she may have. Her longing for more than a communion of the spirit with Vermeer is palpable. It is, therefore, not surprising that the undercurrents in the Vermeer household should come bubbling to the surface and engulf Griet, much to her consternation.
This is a stunning literary work that fully realizes the promise that the author showed in her debut novel, "The Virgin Blue". She is an author that understands the less is often more, and she makes every word count. Deliberate and spare, her prose is lyrical in its simplicity, weaving a tale that will keep the reader spellbound. This is historical fiction at its finest. Bravo!
A Cinderella Story about Life in an Artist's Home Sep 24, 2004
Vermeer's famous portrait of a girl with a pearl earring and her hair covered completely in fabric has always beguiled me. The style of the painting, the expression, the clothes, the earring, the direct stare and longing in the mouth and eyes have always made me want to know more about the model.
Ms. Chevalier's book dealt with those questions quite well, and took my understanding of the subject to new depths that I had not considered before. If I had only gained that increased understanding of the painting, I would have found this to be a worthy book.
The story is also filled with interesting details about the artistic methods of the time and preparation of materials. That information was an unexpected bonus.
Vermeer is known for having produced few works. Ms. Chevalier has provided many intriguing ideas about why that might have been the case.
On top of these artistic questions, Ms. Chevalier has written a lively story of a young woman whose family falls on hard times so that she has to take up work as a maid in Vermeer's household. She finds herself at the bottom of the pecking order and is often treated unfairly. Like Cinderella, her true qualities are eventually appreciated and she finds her Prince Charming. The story also provides many helpful details about town life in Delft during the 1700s.
The Cinderella story was a bit overdeveloped compared to the artistic aspects of the story. Had the two aspects been in better balance I would have found this to be a five star book.
If you normally enjoy historical romances, you will probably like this book better than I did.
Chevalier makes up a story behind the Vermeer painting Apr 12, 2004
I read "La Jeune Fille a la Perle" ("Girl With a Pearl Earring") because I was so enthralled by the 2003 film adaptation directed by Peter Webber from a script by Olivia Hetreed. When I saw the movie I was impressed by its visual elements but now that I have real Tracy Chevalier's novel I am really impressed by Hetreed's screenplay. Usually when I am inspired to read a novel after I see a film it is to get more of the story, thinking that less than half of what is in the book has made it to the screen. That is most decidedly not the case with "Girl With a Pearl Earring."
Johannes Vermeer's 1665 oil on canvas painting, which hangs in The Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis in The Hague, is considered one of his masterworks. It is a portrait of a young girl, wearing a turban and a pearl earring, looking over her shoulder, her lips parted slightly, set against a black background. But if you are familiar with Vermeer's body of work, most of which represented the corner of his studio in which he worked, then clearly "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is an atypical work. This painting has raised a series of questions ever since it was rediscovered in 1882: Was the pearl real? What is she wearing a turban? Was the painting intended to be a portrait? Nothing is known about whom Vermeer used as his model, so the biggest question of all is Who was the girl in the painting?
Chevalier answers all of these questions, and more, by creating a young girl named Griet. After her father, a tile maker, is blinded in a kiln accident Griet is sent to work cleaning in the house of Vermeer in the Dutch city of Delft. She is Protestant and the Vermeers are Catholic, which adds another element of strangeness to the young girl when she moves into the house. Vermeer's wife, Catharina, is about to deliver another baby, and Griet is to help with the household work. But she is also given the job of cleaning the master's studio, where she faces the daunting task of cleaning the objects on display without moving them from their position.
Griet is a smart girl, which for some may well be the Achilles heel in the conceit spun by Chevalier since they may well conclude that neither Greit's education nor her experiences would allow her to come up with the deep thoughts she has at critical points in the narrative. But that intelligence is necessary to the story Chevalier wants to tell and the foundation for everything that follows is Griet's common sense conclusion that cleaning the widow's in Vermeer's studio will change the light that falls on his subjects.
"Girl with a Pearl Earring" is about the art of painting and we learn, through Griet's eyes, something of Vermeer's technique, especially with his use of the camera obscura. But it is also something of a love story, in that Griet cannot help but be smitten with the man who ends up painting her portrait, even if the thought that something might actually happen between them never really enters her mind. For a time, in Chevalier's story, Griet serves as a muse of inspiration for a great painter who produced a true masterpiece.
This is not a true story. Most of the characters really lived and you can travel to the Netherlands and see the actual painting, but Chevalier's answer to all of the questions swirling around Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" are only creative speculations. Yet in the final analysis Chevalier achieves the ultimate level that author's aspire to when they tell such tales in that we wish that this was indeed a true story. Chevalier makes Griet as memorable as the painting she inspires in this 2000 novel.
On the back of the my copy of this novel author Deborah Moggach, author of "Tulip Fever," says that she read Chevalier's story with a book of Vermeer's paintings beside me. I read "Girl with a Pearl Earring" after not only seeing the movie but after checking out all of Vermeer's paintings online, so that when Chevalier talks about the paintings "Woman with a Pearl Necklace" and "The Concert" I was able to visualize them. I wish that reproductions of those paintings had been included in this novel as well as the cover picture of the titular artwork, the same way I wish that I could see the paintings and architecture that matter in Dan Brown's novels. Since you can easily find a couple of excellent websites with Vermeer's artwork I would strong recommend that even if you have also seen the movie, that you be able to have the same advantage as Griet and be able to study these great paintings.