Friday, December 3, 2010

Chevalier Appreciation Day

Finally! A modern person has been chosen for Author Appreciation Day. If I could be any writer today, it would be Tracy Chevalier. With very few words, Ms. Chevalier seamlessly weaves fact and historical fiction together. Here is a glimpse at just three of her works.

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.

Thank you all for stopping by today. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and if you're searching for an interesting read, give Tracy Chevalier a try.


  1. Girl with a Pearl Earring is a super delicious read. Looove that book. Scarlett Johansson did a really good job in the movie (which is close to being as good as the book, I think.)

    Chevalier knows how to tell a story. Can't go wrong here.

    Thanks for some super reviews!

  2. you do love your historicals don't you?

  3. I'll be visiting my local library to check out some of these books. Thanks for the recommendation. Have a great weekend!

  4. I also loved "Girl With a Pearl Earring", book and film. "Girl in Hyacinth Blue" by Susan Vreeland is excellent and also about Vermeer, whose work I have seen in person and just love!

  5. I have never read any of Tracy Chevalier's work. It sounds so fascinating. I haven't seen the movie Girl with a Pearl Earring either. I may have to broaden my horizons. =)

  6. I will I will!! I love these extracts - thank you!! I saw the Girl with a pearl earring film but have not read the book - (blushes with deep shame!!)but I will now, I will!!

    :-) Take care

  7. Girl with a Pearl Earring! I love historical fiction!

  8. My daughter requested I check out the movie Girl with a Pearl Earring from the libarary after she read the book in class..."It was the best book I read all year." We both enjoyed the film but she said the book was "way better." Aren't they always?

  9. I think i might read the one about the artist. Pearls are always an intriguing thing.

  10. I must say that the film (Pearl) was simply luscious.