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1 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

Girl with a Pearl Earring

by

Girl with a Pearl Earring Cover

ISBN13: 9780452284937
ISBN10: 0452284937
Condition: Standard
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Excerpt

chapter one

My mother did not tell me they were coming. Afterwards she said she did not want me to appear nervous. I was surprised, for I thought she knew me well. Strangers would think I was calm. I did not cry as a baby. Only my mother would note the tightness along my jaw, the widening of my already wide eyes.

I was chopping vegetables in the kitchen when I heard voices outside our front door — a woman's, bright as polished brass, and a man's, low and dark like the wood of the table I was working on. They were the kind of voices we heard rarely in our house. I could hear rich carpets in their voices, books and pearls and fur.

I was glad that earlier I had scrubbed the front step so hard.

My mother's voice — a cooking pot, a flagon — approached from the front room. They were coming to the kitchen. I pushed the leeks I had been chopping into place, then set the knife on the table, wiped my hands on my apron, and pressed my lips together to smooth them.

My mother appeared in the doorway, her eyes two warnings. Behind her the woman had to duck her head because she was so tall, taller than the man following her.

All of our family, even my father and brother, were small.

The woman looked as if she had been blown about by the wind, although it was a calm day. Her cap was askew so that tiny blond curls escaped and hung about her forehead like bees which she swatted at impatiently several times. Her collar needed straightening and was not as crisp as it could be. She pushed her grey mantle back from her shoulders, and I saw then that under her dark blue dress a baby was growing. It would arrive by the year's end, or before.

The woman's face was like an oval serving plate, flashing at times, dull at others. Her eyes were two light brown buttons, a color I had rarely seen coupled with blond hair. She made a show of watching me hard, but could not fix her attention on me, her eyes darting about the room.

"This is the girl, then," she said abruptly.

"This is my daughter, Griet," my mother replied. I nodded respectfully to the man and woman.

"Well. She's not very big. Is she strong enough?" As the woman turned to look at the man, a fold of her mantle caught the handle of the knife, knocking it off the table so that it spun across the floor.

The woman cried out.

"Catharina," the man said calmly. He spoke her name as if he held cinnamon in his mouth. The woman stopped, making an effort to quiet herself.

I stepped over and picked up the knife, polishing the blade on my apron before placing it back on the table. The knife had brushed against the vegetables. I set a piece of carrot back in its place.

The man was watching me, his eyes grey like the sea. He had a long, angular face, and his expression was steady, in contrast to his wife's, which flickered like a candle. He had no beard or moustache, and I was glad, for it gave him a clean appearance. He wore a black cloak over his shoulders, a white shirt, and a fine lace collar. His hat pressed into hair the color of brick washed by rain.

"What have you been doing here, Griet?" he asked.

I was surprised by the question but knew enough to hide it. "Chopping vegetables, sir. For the soup."

"And why have you laid them out thus?" He tapped his finger on the table.

I always laid vegetables out in a circle, each with its own section like a slice of pie. There were five slices: red cabbage, onions, leeks, carrots and turnips. I had used a knife edge to shape each slice, and placed a carrot disk in the center.

The man tapped his finger on the table. "Are they laid out in the order in which they will go into the soup?" he suggested, studying the circle.

"No, sir." I hesitated. I could not say why I had laid out the vegetables as I did. I simply set them as I felt they should be, but I was too frightened to say so to a gentleman.

"I see you have separated the whites," he said, indicating the turnips and onions. "And then the orange and the purple, they do not sit together. Why is that?" He picked up a shred of cabbage and a piece of carrot and shook them like dice in his hand.

I looked at my mother, who nodded slightly.

"The colors fight when they are side by side, sir."

He arched his eyebrows, as if he had not expected such a response. "And do you spend much time setting out the vegetables before you make the soup?"

"Oh, no, sir," I replied, confused. I did not want him to think I was idle.

From the corner of my eye I saw a movement — my sister, Agnes, was peering round the doorpost and had shaken her head at my response. I did not often lie. I looked down.

The man turned his head slightly and Agnes disappeared. He dropped the pieces of carrot and cabbage into their slices. The cabbage shred fell partly into the onions. I wanted to reach over and tease it into place. I did not, but he knew that I wanted to. He was testing me.

"That's enough prattle," the woman declared. Though she was annoyed with his attention to me, it was me she frowned at. "Tomorrow, then?" She looked at the man before sweeping out of the room, my mother behind her. The man glanced once more at what was to be the soup, then nodded at me and followed the women.

When my mother returned I was sitting by the vegetable wheel. I waited for her to speak. She was hunching her shoulders as if against a winter chill, though it was summer and the kitchen was hot.

"You are to start tomorrow as their maid. If you do well, you will be paid eight stuivers a day. You will live with them."

I pressed my lips together.

"Don't look at me like that, Griet," my mother said. "We have to, now your father has lost his trade."

"Where do they live?"

"On the Oude Langendijck, where it intersects with the Molenpoort."

"Papists' Corner? They're Catholic?"

"You can come home Sundays. They have agreed to that." My mother cupped her hands around the turnips, scooped them up along with some of the cabbage and onions and dropped them into the pot of water waiting on the fire. The pie slices I had made so carefully were ruined.

**

I climbed the stairs to see my father. He was sitting at the front of the attic by the window, where the light touched his face. It was the closest he came now to seeing.

Father had been a tile painter, his fingers still stained blue from painting cupids, maids, soldiers, ships, children, fish, flowers, animals onto white tiles, glazing them, firing them, selling them. One day the kiln exploded, taking his eyes and his trade. He was the lucky one ­ two other men died.

I sat next to him and held his hand.

"I heard," he said before I could speak. "I heard everything." His hearing had taken the strength from his missing eyes.

I could not think of anything to say that would not sound reproachful.

"I'm sorry, Griet. I would like to have done better for you." The place where his eyes had been, where the doctor had sewn shut the skin, looked sorrowful. "But he is a good gentleman, and fair. He will treat you well." He said nothing about the woman.

"How can you be sure of this, Father? Do you know him?"

"Don't you know who he is?"

"No."

"Do you remember the painting we saw in the Town Hall a few years ago, which van Ruijven was displaying after he bought it? It was a view of Delft, from the Rotterdam and Schiedam Gates. With the sky that took up so much of the painting, and the sunlight on some of the buildings."

"And the paint had sand in it to make the brickwork and the roofs look rough," I added. "And there were long shadows in the water, and tiny people on the shore nearest us."

"That's the one." Father's sockets widened as if he still had eyes and was looking at the painting again.

I remembered it well, remembered thinking that I had stood at that very spot many times and never seen Delft the way the painter had.

"That man was van Ruijven?"

"The patron?" Father chuckled. "No, no, child, not him. That was the painter. Vermeer. That was Johannes Vermeer and his wife. You're to clean his studio."

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 5 comments:

gdreyer3586, November 16, 2009 (view all comments by gdreyer3586)
In my English class, we were given 5 possible books to read. I signed up for girl with a pearl earring and was not disappointed. The vivid imagery and descriptive plot made me want more. I literally couldnt put it down one night and read the whole thing. My whole group loved the book, and my other friends in that class all wish they had signed up for this one. You won't be disappointed!
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(4 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
narii, September 24, 2009 (view all comments by narii)
In my opinion, the book is dry and rather boring, the characters annoy me and the dialogues are lifeless.
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(6 of 8 readers found this comment helpful)
bakurabi, September 24, 2009 (view all comments by bakurabi)
This book is honestly one of, if not the, worst book I've ever been forced to read for school, and I've read some pretty bad books. The plot, if you could even call it that, was so monotonous, that I often realized that I'd read the same line five times already without noticing. Also, the dialogue is so bland, the book would be better without it. If given the choice, I would have put this book down after the first page or two because there is nothing that would make you want to keep reading.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780452284937
Subtitle:
A Novel (movie tie-in)
Author:
Chevalier, Tracy
Publisher:
Plume
Location:
New York, N.Y., U.S.A.
Subject:
General
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Historical fiction
Subject:
Netherlands
Subject:
Women domestics
Subject:
Artists' models
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Biographical fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Number:
Movie Tie-in ed.
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Series Volume:
no. FDA03-1328C
Publication Date:
October 2003
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Pages:
240
Dimensions:
7.80x5.06x.64 in. .50 lbs.
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » Novelization
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

Girl with a Pearl Earring Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$5.50 In Stock
Product details 240 pages Plume Books - English 9780452284937 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A jewel of a novel."
"Review" by , "Chevalier's exploration into the soul of this complex but naïve young woman is moving, and her depiction of 17th-century Delft is marvelously evocative."
"Review" by , "Outstanding."
"Review" by , "A vibrant, sumptuous novel...triumphant...a beautifully written tale that mirrors the elegance of the painting that inspired it."
"Review" by , "Tracy Chevalier has so vividly imagined the life of the painter and his subject that you say to yourself: This is the way it must have been."
"Review" by , "The richest, most rewarding novel I have read this year."
"Review" by , "[A]bsorbing...Chevalier's writing skills and her knowledge of seventeenth-century Delft are such that she creates a world reminiscent of a Vermeer interior: suspended in a particular moment, it transcends its time and place."
"Review" by , "With wonderfilly effective restraint, Chevalier captures the glances and brief comments that gradually lead Griet into her master's studio, his painting, and finally his heart."
"Review" by , "[A] completely absorbing story with enough historical authenticity and artistic intuition to mark Chevalier as a talented newcomer to the literary scene."
"Review" by , "The elegant prose evokes contemplation, the pace is slow and cumulative, the drama emotional rather than visceral. Looking at the painting after having read the novel, the reader thinks, Yes, Chevalier got it right..."
"Synopsis" by ,

In seventeenth-century Delft, there's a strict social orderrich and poor, Catholic and Protestant, master and servantand all know their place. When Griet becomes a maid in the household of the painter Johannes Vermeer, she thinks she knows her role: housework, laundry, and the care of his six children. She even feels able to handle his shrewd mother-in-law; his restless, sensual wife; and their jealous servant. What no one expects is that Griet's quiet manner, quick perceptions, and fascination with her master's paintings will draw her inexorably into his world. Their growing intimacy sparks whispers; and when Vermeer paints her wearing his wife's pearl earrings, the gossip escalates into a full-blown scandal that irrevocably changes Griet's life.

Written with the precision and focus of an Old Master painting, Girl With a Pearl Earring is a vivid portrait of colorful seventeenth-century Delft, as well as the hauntingly poignant story of one young girl's rite of passage.

"Synopsis" by , The runaway New York Times bestseller with over one million copies sold

Now a major motion picture from Lions Gate Films opening November 2003

History and fiction merge seamlessly in Tracy Chevalier's luminous novel about artistic vision and sensual awakening. Through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Griet, the world of 1660s Holland comes dazzlingly alive in this richly imagined portrait of the young woman who inspired one of Vermeer's most celebrated paintings.

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