Sunday, March 28, 2010

A "Girl with a Pearl Earring," which is less mysterious than the painting

Girl With a Pearl Earring
By: Tracy Chevalier
Setting: Amsterdam (Delft to be more precise)  in 1664-1666
Format: 233 pgs.
Verdict: SKIP IT
Rated: PG-13 (Not anything HORRIBLE, but there are some references to sex and rape. Maids are calling each other names but not anything too riske)

You know that feeling when you read a book that's incredibly popular, but it's so boring you don't get what all the hype's about? Unfortunately, that's what we have here with this book right here. 
Yes, the book which won awards that I can't even count on my own two hands, the book that inspired a movie AND a play! And yet, why? What went wrong? Maybe because it's a story about a poor helpless little maid named Greit who comes to work for the Vermeer's because their father is blind, and they need money. Vermeer is entranced by her beauty and by her understanding of art, and they both develop a relationship. And it goes in so deep that she makes paint for the paintings he paints and she even poses for him when his model is not here. When the evil patron who seduces young maids want to pose for a painting with him, the master yells "Enough!" and together they make this glorious masterpiece, his most famous one to date, to the horror of his wife, he hasn't painted her because she's a shrew of a thing. Rings a bell? Now this could be an interesting story. It could be captivating and inspiring right? What the hell went wrong with this book? Well, partly because it's dull. Dull, dull, dull stuff. 
Let me start with the characters. Catharina is the shrewish wife who needs to be dunked in the river, Pieter, Griet's love interest is the butcher's son who wants to marry her and whom she dosen't love. Vermeer has no personality, he just stares at Griet the whole time. His patron is a nasty, mean villain with no intimidating powers whatsoever, and who likes to "do" maids so that they become prostitutes. Every single one of the characters are stereotypes of other characters. That is, except for Griet, which is not saying much. She's just too shy, too polite, too panicked about certain things. (e.x: *GASP* I don't want him to see my hair because it's ugly and I look like a whore! Uh oh, is *fill in the blank* making me take off my cap?? *panic attack*) She does have flaws and redeeming qualities though, which is nice since every other character is one sided. 
The plot totally did not drag me in from the first page. A book like this should have taken me no time to read, that is a book with an interesting development of plot. There is none here, the plot takes so long to develop it's almost tedious. Half of the book is completely unnecessary. If you're wondering, the book is not developed at all. Now, I don't mind slow paced books. In fact, The Virgin Suicides was a hit for me. Granted apples and oranges don't even begin to describe these two, but at least Suicides was more interesting and thought provoking, and the plot actually went somewhere.  There was only one part of the book which I LOVED, and yet it's not enough.
I did not buy the writing either. Some of it was incredibly well written other timed it didn't impress me. It's really tedious when Griet constantly refers to her master as 'He.' Well, Vermeer isn't God. It's OK for you to say 'My Master'. *shakes head* So sad, I was actually looking forward to the writing in this everyone says it's SOOO GOOD!! Actually, the strongest point in this book was the vivid imagrey of Delft during that time, which Chevalier does such an excellent job in recreating. But the flaws are so huge, it's far from the saving grace of the novel.
There's a lot to admire here, and it's not entirely horrible, but SKIP IT. There's just not enough to win me over.


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