Sunday, August 13, 2017


Girl in Hyacinth Blue
Susan Vreeland
Penguin Books

Ms. Hen found this book at the Little Free Library in the town where she lives. A little free library is a small box where people can pick up books and drop off books for free! Ms. Hen is excited that there are some where she lives now. She picked this book up because she liked the title and the cover.

Ms. Hen didn’t know what this book was when she first started reading it. She thought it was a novel, but it turned out to be a novel in stories. All the stories surround a painting by Vermeer, GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE, and the mystery of its origin. The book takes the reader back through the history of the painting, and the different owners, and how they felt about it.

The book opens with the story, “Love Enough,” about a math teacher who owns the painting, and he is not sure if it’s a Vermeer. He acquires this painting through dubious means, and shows an art teacher colleague to get a professional opinion. He keeps the painting a secret from everyone, and it nearly ruins him. This story, and “Morningshine,” a story about a family who finds a child and the painting together, in which the wife does not want to let go of the painting, since it is the only beautiful item they own, remind Ms. Hen of the novel, THE PEARL by John Steinbeck. In that novel, the characters are left to ruin by a pearl that they think will save their lives, which is similar to these stories; the characters thinks a painting will save their lives, and it does not.

The story, “Adagia,” reminds Ms. Hen of the story, “The Dead,” by James Joyce. In “Adagia,” a husband and wife walk behind their daughter and her intended, and they reminisce about their life together. The man tells his wife about the story of his former sweetheart, whom he left by the wayside, but always regretted it. The story is wistful, and sad, and the wife became troubled after the husband tells her about his past. Ms. Hen thinks this is similar to “The Dead,” because possesses a comparable feeling; in that story, a wife tells her husband of a boy she loved who died, and she never forgot him.

Most of these stories take place in the Netherlands, which Ms. Hen thinks is lovely. She hasn’t read that many novels that take place there. She tried to imagine the countryside, with its flooding and windmills; she was entranced.

There are a few chickens mentioned in this novel.  Ms. Hen’s favorite is,

“ small and new it was only a few twigs above the water, to see if their chickens were in it. Maybe Stijn would find them today. She felt the loss of Pookje the most. She was the beauty, with those chestnut feathers soft as baby’s hair on her throat. And how she always rose so dainty-proud to show the perfect egg she produced.”

This is from the story, “Morningshine,” which Ms. Hen thinks is the turning point of the novel because the owner of the painting is heartbroken to sell it, since it brings her so much happiness.

Ms. Hen loved GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE. She thinks it is a beautiful small book, and it is very fast to read, not only because the pages are small, but because she became engrossed with the characters and their lives and their relationships to the enchanting masterpiece.

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