The March topic for my readers group was The Arts, so I looked through my Kindle app and saw that I had purchased a copy of Vreeland’s Girl in Hyacinth Blue when it was a daily deal. Perfect!
The book centers around a painting by Vermeer of a young girl sitting at a table and staring pensively out the window.
Vreeland’s book isn’t a novel so much as a series of vignette’s that center around the painting. It begins with a university professor showing the painting to a colleague and confessing that it was “acquired” by his Nazi father during WWII. The shocked American professor insists the painting must be a forgery as there is no provenance. Subsequent vignettes show how the painting was confiscated by the Germans, and in an earlier century how the provenance was lost.
The book seemed disjointed and I wasn’t sure how much I liked it until I got to the two-chapter story about a flood. A young family (and their milk cow) are living in the upstairs rooms of their house because the flood waters have risen so far. One morning, the father climbs out the window to get into his skiff and discovers a newborn baby hidden under an oil painting. On the back of the canvas, someone wrote: Sell the painting; feed the baby. The rest of that chapter revolves around the young wife’s attempts to hold onto the baby and the painting, both of which she has come to love. In the next chapter we learn how the baby came to be in the boat. I really enjoyed this story line plus the final stories that involve Vermeer himself and how the painting came to be.
I liked the details of life in the Netherlands at different times in history, as well as the insight into the life of the artist. In the end, I liked the book very much and recommend it. And I do love that painting.
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