I recently read the book Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. I had been reading a lot of nonfiction lately and was really looking forward to immersing myself into a good novel. That is just what I was able to do with this book- although I must say that it ended a little too soon!
I admit that prior to reading this book I knew absolutely nothing about Johannes Vermeer or life in Holland in the 1600s. I am growing quite fond of reading historical fiction. I feel like it is really the best of both worlds- you can learn some history while just enjoying the story.
This book tells the story of Vermeer’s painting through the eyes of the subject, Griet, a seventeen year old girl who because of unfortunate family circumstances must take a job as a maid in Vermeer’s household.
I found it fascinating to learn more about what life may have been like for a maid at that time. Oh, how lucky we are today! Thank God for the washing machine and dryer!
But seriously, it is so easy to dehumanize others that we know nothing about. This book caused me to really think of what Griet’s life might have been like and also what Griet might have been like. She faced some difficult trials and had to make some very serious decisions.
What have I taken away from this book? I guess that people are much like Vermeer’s paintings. Vermeer added layer upon layer to his paintings. White was not white, but a combination of hues visible if you looked deeply enough. Similarly, the experiences that we have contribute to who we are. They come together to create the picture of of us that can be seen today.
Maybe when we look at one another we should not just take a perfunctory glance. We wouldn’t do that with a painting. Maybe we should look deeper, through the layers, and try to understand.