Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Girl with a Pearl Earring

I remember the artwork fondly and how the visual was reminded to me when the 2003 movie was brought into theaters. But never did I read the book. Sure, I had it as something I planned on reading but it never ended up in my hands. A couple of months ago a friend of mine was selling copies of books she didn't want anymore. I opted to buy a couple of her books and this was included in the collections.

During my first week as a tutor I had a lot of down time where students weren't seeking help. It was after mid terms and assignments were scattered so I was left with an eight hour shift and nothing to do. Luckily, I had a copy of Girl with a Pearl Earring with me and began to read.

The structure of the book bothers me... I'm a person that needs a list of 'goals'. I see chapters as a necessity when I read because I can think "Just finish this chapter" and aim to complete that goal. Otherwise, I run the risk of never putting the book down and devouring it far too quickly. Or, depending on what book it is, losing interest because I feel that the 'chapter' never comes to an end and giving up.

With this book, I ended up devouring it. Begrudgingly I would sit it down, slipping my book mark into it's pages, in order to do my job or drive home. But this was somewhat strange because I didn't find myself completely falling into the world of Griet- the main character. This timid creature who, honestly, seemed kind of dumb (she did mention that she was 'confused' at least once a page) didn't stir too much emotion in me. The other characters; aside from her father, the butchers son, and Maertge, were pretty obnoxious. And yet- I flew through this book and couldn't put it down.

But why? Why did I read it so quickly and with a passion when I didn't particularly like anything about it? I think this is when we turn to how Tracy Chevalier is as a writer. I know nothing of that time period nor the land this novel is set in. I know just about nothing about Vermeer (aside from being able to tell what paintings are his). Chevalier managed to depict a world that I could easily picture and she didn't hold back into making the characters an honest portrayal of not-so-nice people. I commend an author for doing that. You're working with these characters you've given life to and it's hard to not have a soft place for each and every one of them (at least, that's how it is with me). To take these characters and twist them around to make them not very likable (which, like I said, I don't think any of her characters can truly be liked) is a hard thing to do. It's like saying bad things about a much loved family member. You might feel a little guilty, you might even feel a little sad.

In some ways, the story doesn't even end all too happy. None of the lives of these characters are easy and Chevalier makes that clear. They all have sadness to contend with and hard occurrences which they face. Nothing comes easy, even for the 'rich' characters, which is all very true in comparison to real life. Griet is the typical hard working class girl as is the rest of her family and the butchers while the Vermeer family is trying hard to continue an aire of richness.

With drama, heartache, and scandal this book does capture your attention and Chevalier writes it very well. I couldn't put the book down but I pause to say that it's a 'great' book. However, maybe I enjoy happier endings to books, much more than I realize.

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