Recently I read Girl With a Pearl Earring. I saw it at Goodwill and grabbed it, thinking it looked interesting because it was set in 1660s Holland (I love travel and culture). So I read it.
This book is about sixteen-year-old Griet, whose family is so poor that she has to go and work as a maid for the painter Vermeer and his family, just to support them. Understandable, right? Things don't start off very well. Everybody seems to have it in for her from the start. There are the children, who mostly keep out of her way except for Cornelia - who is the DEVIL. Seriously.
Did I like this book?
This book may be a classic and based on Vermeer's famous painting, and I may not know much about him as a person, but this book did not do him any favors. When the book starts off, he's this mysterious person that we rarely see. He's supposed to be kind of captivating and secretive. But let's realize something: this guy is married to the woman who hired Griet (the woman of the house, Catharina) and she's heavily pregnant. Yet this guy practically NEVER HELPS HER. He hardly seems like a husband at all. The only time he actually interacts with her is eating dinner with the family, which happens only a couple of times in the book. He's never even present during the actual BIRTH of his son, because he's off painting or getting supplies for his artwork.
And there was also a romantic theme going on between Vermeer and Griet. Another thing I didn't like at all. This guy is married, has several kids and his wife is pregnant with another. THIS IS NOT A SETTING FOR A ROMANCE, PEOPLE. And also, Griet is sixteen (later eighteen, since this book spans about two years), and Vermeer has to be in his late thirties, at least. Not a good match.
Towards the end of the book, Vermeer is also portrayed as a very selfish, uncaring person, if you ask me. You want to know why it's called Girl With a Pearl Earring?
It's not for a good reason.
Vermeer has to paint Griet because of a request from a rich client who took a fancy to her, and after awhile he decides that there's only one thing that will complete the painting of her: his wife's earrings.
Yes. HIS WIFE'S earrings. How do you think she'd react if she found out that the maid was wearing her priceless earrings for the painting? Wonderful Vermeer doesn't even spend much time with her at all, and has never painted her - yet he's willing to paint the maid, wearing her earrings? Bad move, Vermeer. Bad move.
I'll tell you how she reacts - in a minute. WAIT FOR IT.
After Vermeer tells Griet that he wants her to wear one of the pearl earrings, she tells him that her ears aren't even pierced. He blinks and says, "Then take care of it."
Seriously. And because everyone in the house pretty much hates her, Griet can't exactly go to anyone for help piercing her ear. So she does it herself. And faints. Her ear swells and is extremely painful, yet she poses for the painting anyway. Then he asks for the other ear to be pierced. Which is extremely stupid, because you can't even see her other ear in the painting. He simply wants her to wear it because it's "a farce to wear only one." ?? So she has to bear the pain yet a second time, for no reason. He even ignores her when she begins to cry silently after piercing her other ear.
Again, not a smart move, Vermeer.
His wife does find out that he's painting this lowly maid with her earring - and by the way, she finds out from Cornelia, who deliberately leads her to the painting (I told you she's a devil). Anyway, the wife Catharina flips out completely, crying and going into a rage which causes her to go into labor and lose the baby she's carrying.
This is a very dark book with the characters doing disturbing things, and I did not like it. Plus there were several innappropriate parts, which I did not expect and did not appreciate. One of the men in this book continually gropes her and tries to catch her alone. So don't let your teen read this book.
That sums up precisely why I don't like this book. The writing quality was actually not bad, and for the most part I didn't mind the main character, Griet. It was the other characters - particularly Vermeer - that I didn't like.
So. There it is, ladies and gentlemen. Girl With a Pearl Earring.