Girl With a Pearl Earring
Setting: Delft, South Holland, in the 1600's
This scene shows the first meeting between 16-year-old maid Griet and the Dutch painter Vermeer.
"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."This story depicts the intense relationship between Vermeer and Griet and how the painting Girl With a Pearl Earring might have come about. Chevalier is brilliant. I identified with the heroine immediately and was fascinated by her harsh yet beautiful world.
The Virgin Blue setting: Present day and 16th-century France
After moving to Lisle-Sur-Tarn, American Ella Turner has strange dreams with flashes of deep indigo and fragments of ancient-dialect French.
She is soon driven to uncover the history of her ancestress Isabelle du Moulin.
I am still haunted by the fate of secretly Catholic Isabelle at the hands of her intolerant Huguenot family. A tragic and unforgettable story.
Burning Bright setting: London in the 18oo's
The Tiger by William Blake
"Tiger, tiger burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?"
The title of this book comes from the above poem. Chevalier always chooses compelling subject matter. I've been interested in William Blake since my youth. My English-major brother would tell me tales of Blake's life and quote from his writing, and it never failed to give me a thrill.
In Burning Bright, we see life through the eyes of London waif Maggie Butterfield and former country boy, now City dweller, Jem Kellaway. Their coming-of-age story is realistic and not entirely happy, and they are never the same after befriending each other. And their neighbor William Blake.