Girl with a Pearl Earring

Chevalier, Tracy. Girl with a Pearl Earring. Penguin Putnam Inc. (New York: 1999).

Girl with a Pearl EarringA fictional tale set in 1660’s Holland behind the famous painting by Vermeer. The girl respects her position and obligations as the family maid, and yet has inner fire – an interpretation the painting supports. Attracted to the great painter, she assists him and is ultimately painted by him, but that goes too far for the wife and others in their constricted world. A certain fatalism, even cynicism at times, but this girl is a survivor. For writers: Chevalier has created a credible tale out of the already known by investing this world with enough coarseness and detail to stand for possible truth.

Before and After

Brown, Rosellen. Before and After. Farrar Straus Giroux (New York: 1992).

Before and AfterLife is transformed for the entire family of a 17-year-old boy who bludgeons his girlfriend to death. The father’s compulsion to protect his son is paramount for him, over truth or responsibility. The daughter is appalled by her father’s twisting of the truth, and her brother’s actions and lack of remorse. The mother testifies to her son’s having done the act, truly believing it was accidental. Somehow these characters manage to survive as a family without compromising how deeply different they are and how changed each of them become. For writers: Each point of view is told in alternating chapters, with penetrating emotional and psychological detail – an illustration of just how well this can be done.