- Paperback: 242 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books (October 1, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 014029628X
- ISBN-13: 978-0140296280
- Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 0.7 x 7.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 350 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,881 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Girl in Hyacinth Blue Paperback – October 1, 2000
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"The stories depict ordinary details from distinct eras with the light touch and clarity of a real Vermeer. Vreeland's book is a work of art".
-- New York Post
From the Back Cover
A LUMINOUS TALE ABOUT ART AND HUMAN EXPERIENCE THAT IS AS BREATHTAKING AS ANY VERMEER PAINTING
A professor invites a colleague from the art department to his home to see a painting that he has kept secret for decades. The professor swears it is a Vermeer -- why has he hidden this important work for so long? The reasons unfold in a series of stories that trace ownership of the painting back to World War II and Amsterdam, and still further back to the moment of the work's inspiration. As the painting moves through each owner's hands, what was long hidden quietly surfaces, illuminating poignant moments in human lives. Vreeland's characters remind us, through their love of the mysterious painting, how beauty transforms and why we reach for it, what lasts, and what in our lives is singular and unforgettable.
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At the opening of the novel, Cornelius, a college professor has a secret. It’s a secret he’s never shared with anyone outside of his own family. Finally, he decides to trust a colleague and shows him into a special room inside his house where his treasure lies. His secret treasure is a painting so valuable and rare – it’s a Vermeer. How the painting came to be in Cornelius’s possession is the plot of the book, each chapter taking us back into time to walk alongside the Vermeer masterpiece and hear it’s story.
I was impressed with Vreeland’s superb research and storytelling talents. This was a wonderful book that is not only an excellent work of historical fiction, but also presents an intriguing mystery that makes for an enjoyable read.
The ending isn't as sad as some novels I've read, but the book left me with a depressing perspective. Not every book has to have a happy ending, and in a sense the ending of the book was really the beginning of the painting's story. Still, the ending left me feeling dissatisfied with both the characters and the time I'd invested in reading their stories.
The story follows the path of a Vermeer painting from present time to when the picture was created several hundred years ago. Through the story, it passes through 7 owners. The painting is described as a beautiful young girl, who is looking out a window day dreaming. She has sewing materials as well. Each owner relates to the painting and has a philosophy of what the girl is thinking; and for some, it also reminds them of loves lost. Most of their stories were sad, but all felt a connection to the painting. Each chapter shares the story of a different owner as well as what was going on in their lives. The last 2 chapters is Vermeer painting the girl and his story and the girl's story 20 or so years later.
Vermeer only painted 30 or so paintings and most of the owners recognized its great value.
While the premise of the book (hearing the story of each of the 7 owners) is interesting, the beginning 2 chapters were so intriguing that I wished that the author would have continued further with this line rather than jumping to the next owner. The next 2 owners didn't feel connected to the rest of the story as the other 5 owners. For those middle owners I felt that there were details missing in how they came about owning the painting so it felt disjointed at times. The last 4 chapters the story felt connected. However, after 2 chapters of somewhat a disconnect, I felt the book lost much of its momentum.
While I thought the book was good, I would have rated it 4 or 5 stars if chapters 3-4 had more details so that the reader could more easily follow the path of the painting.