Tracy Chevalier, born and brought up in the US, came to Britain as part of her university course and never went home. She has worked for art galleries and publishers. Tracy Chevalier is married with one baby.
Set in 17th-century Delft, this historical novel intertwines the art of Johannes Vermeer with his life and that of a maiden servant in his household. From the few facts known about the artist, Chevalier creates the reality of the Netherlands. The parallel themes of tradesman/artist, Protestant/Catholic, and master/servant are intricately woven into the fabric of the tale. The painters of the day spent long hours in the studio, devising and painting re-creations of everyday life. The thrust of the story is seen through the eyes of Griet, the daughter of a Delft tile maker who lost his sight and, with it, the ability to support his family. Griet's fate is to be hired out as a servant to the Vermeer household. She has a wonderful sense of color, composition, and orderliness that the painter Vermeer recognizes. And, slowly, Vermeer entrusts much of the labor of creating the colored paints to Griet. Throughout, narrator Ruth Ann Phimister gives a strong performance as the enchanting voice of Griet. Highly recommended. Kristin M. Jacobi, Eastern Connecticut State Univ., Willimantic Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
YA-A fictional account of how the Dutch artist Vermeer painted his masterpiece. In this splendid novel, the girl in the painting is Griet, the 16-year-old servant of the Vermeer household. The relationship between her and Vermeer is elusive. Is she more than a model? Is she merely an assistant? Is the artist's interest exaggerated in her eyes? The details found in this book bring 17th-century Holland to life. Everyday chores are described so completely that readers will feel Griet's raw, chapped hands and smell the blood-soaked sawdust of the butcher's stall. They will never view a Dutch painting again without remembering how bone, white lead, and other materials from the apothecary shop were ground, and then mixed with linseed oil to produce the rich colors. YAs will also find out how a maid from the lower class, whose only claim to pearls would be to steal them, becomes the owner of the earrings.-Sheila Barry, Chantilly Regional Library, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
The scant confirmed facts about the life of Vermeer, and the relative paucity of his masterworks, continues to be provoke to the literary imagination, as witnessed by this third fine fictional work on the Dutch artist in the space of 13 months. Not as erotic or as deviously suspenseful as Katharine Weber's The Music Lesson, or as original in conception as Susan Vreeland's interlinked short stories, Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Chevalier's first novel succeeds on its own merits. Through the eyes of its protagonist, the modest daughter of a tile maker who in 1664 is forced to work as a maid in the Vermeer household because her father has gone blind, Chevalier presents a marvelously textured picture of 17th-century Delft. The physical appearance of the city is clearly delineated, as is its rigidly defined class system, the grinding poverty of the working people and the prejudice against Catholics among the Protestant majority. From the very first, 16-year-old narrator Griet establishes herself as a keen observer who sees the world in sensuous images, expressed in precise and luminous prose. Through her vision, the personalities of coolly distant Vermeer, his emotionally volatile wife, Catharina, his sharp-eyed and benevolently powerful mother-in-law, Maria Thins, and his increasing brood of children are traced with subtle shading, and the strains and jealousies within the household potently conveyed. With equal skill, Chevalier describes the components of a painting: how colors are mixed from apothecary materials, how the composition of a work is achieved with painstaking care. She also excels in conveying the inflexible class system, making it clear that to members of the wealthy elite, every member of the servant class is expendable. Griet is almost ruined when Vermeer, impressed by her instinctive grasp of color and composition, secretly makes her his assistant, and later demands that she pose for him wearing Catharina's pearl earrings. While Chevalier develops the tension of this situation with skill, several other devices threaten to rob the narrative of its credibility. Griet's ability to suggest to Vermeer how to improve a painting demands one stretch of the reader's imagination. And Vermeer's acknowledgment of his debt to her, revealed in the denouement, is a blatant nod to sentimentality. Still, this is a completely absorbing story with enough historical authenticity and artistic intuition to mark Chevalier as a talented newcomer to the literary scene. Agent, Deborah Schneider. (Jan.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.