NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!

Lezlie



Saturday, October 10, 2009

GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE

by Susan Vreeland



"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." (From the back of the Penguin edition.)

Thanks to the Art History Reading Challenge, Johannes Vermeer and I meet again. Girl in Hyacinth Blue would be a perfect book for a reading group. I loved the way the stories followed the painting back in time and the reader is shown glimpses of the various lives it had touched. To compare and contrast those lives and the part the painting played in them would be a remarkable discussion! I thought it was an ingenious way of tying together a series of short stories. It could be my lack of experience in this type of sub-genre, but there is always something that feels unique about the way Vreeland approaches her subjects. This was my second of her books for this challenge, and she is a writer that believe I will continue to explore.



25 comments:

Booklogged said...

I loved this book. I'm going to look for the other Vreeland book you read and what other books you are reading for this challenge. I've signed up for the challenge, too.

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

This would be the perfect book for The Four Month Challenge I signed up for recently. One of the categories is to read an art-themed book. Thanks for your review.

Diane said...

I really liked this book when I read it many years ago.

Marg said...

I loved the way that the story flowed from one owner back to the previous owner throughout this book!

BooksPlease said...

I haven't read this but thought I had - then I realised it reminded me of Margaret Forster's Keeping the World Away, which is also about a painting passing through different owners' hands.

Thoughts of Joy said...

I loved this book! I have not read any more by Vreeland, but am certainly curious about how they compare.

Lezlie said...

Booklogged ~ I think this was the challenge that stretched me the farthest. I truly read things I would never have read otherwise and found in them books I ended up loving!

A Bookshelf Monstrosity ~ It is definitely perfect for that. And it's not very long, which is nice sometimes, too! :-)

Diane ~ I think it is one of those that I will like even more as I mull it over more in the weeks to come.

Marg ~ That was my favorite part! It was such a great concept.

Books Please ~ I'll have to keep my eye out for that one. It would be interesting to compare the two.

Thoughts of Joy ~ I liked both that I've read. Her writing is beautiful! This one probably held my attention more, but Luncheon of the Boating Party is a much longer book.

Lezlie

Literary Feline said...

This does sound like an interesting book, Lezlie. I love stories that reach back into history and are interconnected somehow. Thanks for the great review!

Fyrefly said...

It's been a while since I've read this, but I did love the interconnections between the stories. It reminded me of the movie The Red Violin - but sadly I can't really think of any similar books.

Lezlie said...

Literary Feline ~ I think you would like this one. It would be great for your challenge break. ;-)

Fyrefly ~ If you come across any, let me know! I really loved the concept and would like to see how other authors use it.

Lezlie

joanna said...

I've been curious about this one, but I'm not really that much into art so keep putting it off...

Fyrefly said...

I kept thinking about it, and I realized that a lot of the reasons that I liked Girl in Hyacinth Blue were the same reasons that I liked The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr. It's non-fiction, and comes at it from a very different angle, but it's the same idea of tracking a painting through time, seeing its ups and downs and what it meant to people along the way. Plus, I know absolutely nothing about art history, and it was still very understandable and totally fascinating.

I'll keep my eye out for similar fiction, though, too. :)

Lezlie said...

Joanna ~ It's much more about the people than the art itself. And it's short, if that helps. :-)

Fyrefly ~ Thank you! I'll take a look at The Lost Painting. It sounds like something I'd like.

Lezlie

Jemima said...

I loved this book too. If anyone is interested, there is another art history challenge going on at Heidenkind's Hideaway. It started fairly recently, so it would still be good to join. http://heidenkind.blogspot.com/2009/08/heidenkind-art-history-challenge.html

I have another Vreeland book waiting to read and review soon. It is The Passion of Artemesia.

Lezlie said...

Jemima ~ Thank you for leaving the link for others who may be interested in joining the new challenge! The Passion of Artemesia is the next Vreeland that I have my eye on also. I'll be anxiously awaiting your thoughts on that one!

Lezlie

Serena said...

I think this book sounds fascinating...thanks for the review.

Lezlie said...

Thanks, Serena! Vreeland is an excellent writer.

Lezlie

Trish said...

Reading through some of the comments it seems like many have loved this book! I haven't heard much about it and don't recognize the author's name. It's a series of short stories?

Lezlie said...

Trish ~ It is, but each story is related to the one before it. The flow follows the painting from modern times back to Vermeer's daughter, who is the girl in the work.

Lezlie

Matt said...

Hmm...I have been thinking about this book. never knew the connection to art history, but the connected short stories do sound very interesting.

Lezlie said...

Matt ~ I'd love to see your thoughts on it if you decide to read it. The way she connected the stories was very cool.

Lezlie

Teddy Rose said...

A friend gave me this book when it first came out and I still haven't read it. I must get to it.

Lezlie said...

Teddy Rose ~ I think you would like this book a lot. Hopefully you can make room for it soon so I can see if I'm right. :-)

Are you still going to be in Minnesota next month?

Lezlie

Teddy Rose said...

Yes, I will be in MN from Saturday Nov. 7- Sat. Nov. 14th. I would need to meet with you on a weekday or weekday evening. Will that work for you?

Lezlie said...

Teddy Rose ~ I'm sure we can work something out. :-)

Lezlie