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    Q&A | July 20, 2015

    Jesse Ball: IMG Powellā€™s Q&A: Jesse Ball

    Describe your latest book. I woke up one day from a sort of daydream with an idea for a book's structure, and for the thread of that book, one... Continue »
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      A Cure for Suicide

      Jesse Ball 9781101870129

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2 Burnside Literature- A to Z
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Girl in Hyacinth Blue


Girl in Hyacinth Blue Cover

ISBN13: 9780140296280
ISBN10: 014029628x
Condition: Standard
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Only 3 left in stock at $3.95!




Cornelius Engelbrecht invented himself. Let me emphasize, straight away, that he isn't what I would call a friend, but I know him enough to say that he did purposely design himself: single, modest dresser in receding colours, mathematics teacher, sponsor of the chess club, mild-mannered acquaintance to all rather than a friend to any, a person anxious to become invisible. However, that exterior blandness masked a burning centre, and for some reason that became clear to me only later, Cornelius Engelbrecht revealed to me the secret obsession that lay beneath his orderly, controlled design.

It was after Dean Merrill's funeral that I began to see Cornelius's unmasked heart. We'd all felt the shock of Merrill's sudden death, a loss that thrust us into a temporary intimacy uncommon in the faculty lunchroom of our small private boys' academy, but it wasn't shock or Cornelius's head start in drinking that snowy afternoon in Penn's Den where we'd gone after the funeral that made him forsake his strategy of obscurity. Someone at the table remarked about Merrill's cryptic last words, "love enough," words that now sting me as much as any indictment of my complicity or encouragement, but they didn't then. We began talking of last words of famous people and of our dead relatives, and Cornelius dipped his head and fastened his gaze on his dark beer. I only noticed because chance had placed us next to each other at the table.

He spoke to his beer rather than to any of us. " 'An eye like a blue pearl,' was what my father said. And then he died. During a winter's first snowfall, just like this."

Cornelius had a face I'd always associated with Piero della Francesca's portrait of the Duke of Urbino. It was the shape of his nose, narrow but extremely high-bridged, providing a bench for glasses he did not wear. He seemed a man distracted by a mystery or preoccupied by an intellectual or moral dilemma so consuming that it made him feel superior, above those of us whose concerns were tires for the car or a child's flu. Whenever our talk moved toward the mundane, he became distant, as though he were mulling over something far more weighty, which made his cool smiles patronizing.

"Eye like a blue pearl? What's that mean?" I asked.

He studied my face as if measuring me against some private criteria. "I can't explain it, Richard, but I might show you."

In fact, he insisted that I come to his home that evening, which was entirely out of character. I'd never seen him insist on anything. It would call attention to himself. I think Merrill's "love enough" had somehow stirred him, or else he thought it might stir me. As I say, why he picked me I couldn't tell, unless it was simply that I was the only artist or art teacher he knew.

He took me down a hallway into a spacious study piled with books, the door curiously locked even though he lived alone. Closed off, the room was chilly so he lite a fire. "I don't usually have guests," he explained, and directed me to sit in the one easy chair, plum-coloured leather, high-backed and expensive, next to the fireplace and opposite a painting. A most extraordinary painting in which a young girl wearing a short blue smock over a rust-coloured skirt sat in profile at a table by an open window.

"My God," I said. It must have been what he'd wanted to hear, for it unleashed a string of directives, delivered at high pitch.

"Look. Look at her eye. Like a pearl. Pearls were favourite items of Vermeer. The longing in her expression. And look at that Delft light spilling onto her forehead from the window." He took out his handkerchief and, careful not to touch the painting, wiped the frame, though I saw no dust at all. "See here," he said, "the grace of her hand, idle, palm up. How he consecrated a single moment in that hand. But more than that—"

"Remarkable," I said. "Certainly done in the style of Vermeer. A beguiling imitation."

Cornelius placed his hands on the arm of the chair and leaned toward me until I felt his breath on my forehead. "It is a Vermeer," he whispered.

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Susan Nielsen, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by Susan Nielsen)
Beautiful prose, and completely transporting to times within the pages. The characters, so true to themselves, make the reader ache to know them more.
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JudysAntiques, September 16, 2010 (view all comments by JudysAntiques)
This is the greatest book I have ever read. It is moving in many ways. I laughed, but I also cried while reading it. Susan's perfect way of describing people, places, scenarios, carried me through time and introduced me to many families who I was able to feel intimately close to.
Throughout the book I could visualize (and still can) the painting of the girl in hyacinth blue as if I had actually seen it. The literary richness of this book makes me want the painting to exist, and I want to also see it if only once, as I grew to love it deeply too, like many of the characters.
I highly recommend this book not only to art lovers and literature fans, but to everyone who wants a wonderful book to read.
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(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
Nicholas Whalen, January 2, 2010 (view all comments by Nicholas Whalen)
Evocative, painful and bittersweet as it is hopeful...the author has a mastery of the English language that I have not seen from any author in a good long while. Her descriptions of place and time and a handful of people that I could swear were dear friends or family by the time I finished this book were richer and more heartfelt than I would have ever imagined could be contained into such a compact "reader" as this one. This is, simply put, a true piece of art, as much as any painting that is the reference of this title, and I would not say such a thing lightly, about any piece of literature. So much could be learned here...
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Product Details

Vreeland, Susan
Penguin Books
New York, N.Y.
World war, 1939-1945
College teachers
Biographical fiction
World War, 1939-1945 -- Atrocities.
Vermeer, Johannes
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
October 2000
Grade Level:
from 12
7.40x4.54x.73 in. .51 lbs.
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » Literature
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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

Girl in Hyacinth Blue Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$3.95 In Stock
Product details 256 pages Penguin Books - English 9780140296280 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Vreeland's wonderful second outing is a novel made of stories, each delving farther into the provenance of a Vermeer painting, and each capturing a moment of life, much as the great painter did himself....Extraordinarily skilled historical fiction: deft, perceptive, full of learning, deeply moving."
"Review" by , "Reading Vreeland's new book is like opening up a Chinese box: each chapter reveals a new layer of meaning and import....True to the spirit of Vermeer, Vreeland uses art as a vehicle for capturing special moments in the lives of ordinary people; true, too, to Vermeer's legacy, she creates art that brings a unique pleasure into the lives of ordinary readers."
"Review" by , "Intelligent, searching and unusual, the novel is filled with luminous moments; like the painting it describes so well, it has a way of lingering in the reader's mind."
"Synopsis" by , The ownership of a supposed Vermeer painting is traced back to the moment of its inspiration; and as the painting moves through each owner's hands, what was long hidden or forgotten or repressed quietly surfaces. Like Vermeer's paintings, this bestselling novel illuminates the poignantly dear moments in people's lives.
"Synopsis" by , Girl in Hyacinth Blue, "the little gem of a novel [that is a] beautifully written exploration of the power of art" (Parade), is now a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie starring Glenn Close and Ellen Burstyn.
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