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Book Review

Book: Girl in Hyacinth Blue
Author: Susan Vreeland
Published: October, 2000
Publisher: Penguin Books

available at

Synopsis: The mild-mannered mathematics teacher, Cornelius Engelbrecht, has a secret: he owns an original Vermeer painting. Well, at least he thinks he does. In Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Susan Vreeland takes us on a journey through time, not with a particular character but with the painting itself. The journey begins in the US with the current owner of the painting and the reader travels backward in time to catch a glimpse of the life of each previous owner of the painting and its significance in his or her life. In the final chapter, the reader is transported to Ė where else but Delft? Ė the site of Vermeerís studio. But the questions remains: is it or isnít it? Youíll have to read the book to find out.

Editorís Review: Girl in Hyacinth Blue is a brief but charming novel that illustrates the significance of a work of art for each of its successive owners. Within each chapter, someone considers the painting to be intrinsically valuable but is forced by circumstances to part with it. Although the mystery set up in the very first chapter motivates the reader to read on to determine if the painting really is a true Vermeer, it lacks the emotional impact that results from identification with one particular character. Instead, the reader is moved from one group of characters to another, and is left dangling when the painting changes hands. I did enjoy, however, the informative historical descriptions of Dutch life from several different perspectives, dating as far back as the mid-1600s. The characters that Vreeland has created are extremely realistic and reflective of the individualís struggle with personal issues and the times in which they live. Vreelandís characters are sensitively and at times, comically, portrayed and that is perhaps why I longed for each story to continue. Overall, I believe the book accomplished what it was probably intended to do: to illustrate the importance of a work of art upon the individuals with whom it comes in contact.

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Diana Blake is a professional artist and art history enthusiast. Her fascination with art history began when she encountered European art firsthand during several trips abroad as a young adult. As she began to compose a portfolio for her own art career, she called upon what she had seen in Europe and extended her knowledge to other styles of art through profuse reading and exhaustive research. As a result, Diana has written more than one hundred articles in which she delves into a variety of art history topics and she has compiled a list of links that she believes to be invaluable for art history enthusiasts. In addition, she also reviews books and movies on the topic of art history and has assembled an extensive list of online stores that sell books, movies and gift items related to art history.
   You can see Diana's own artwork by visiting her site at