Girl in Hyacinth Blue
The novel Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland traces a fictional 17th century Dutch painting from its present owner, the schoolteacher son of an SS functionary who looted it from a Jewish home, back to its genesis in the brushstrokes of the offspring-laden Vermeer. I am spoiling this for you, dear reader, in so many ways, but I myself came into the novel unaware of this structure. Imagine my confusion as the third chapter began, but I quickly caught on. It was still delightfully disconcerting at the beginning of every chapter to be transported back a period and then brought up in time to where the previous chapter had begun. Along the way, Vreeland explores the history and landscape of the Netherlands through the various voices of her characters.
I picked this book up because someone chose it for my monthly book/wine club. That is probably why I was unaware of what it was about and how it was constructed when I began reading. I finished it to preserve my honor in book club and because I almost always finish a book that I start. However, it wasn’t a chore. It was a lovely read, particularly as an interlude between the textbooks I’m reading this month. I have already recommended the book to my walking/reading co-worker Monica! I hope she reads the book before she reads this review.
The image I’m sharing here is NOT the painting in the novel, which, as I mentioned, is fictional (as far as I can determine). I chose it because of the color blue that figures throughout the novel. Image credit: akg-images / Universal Images Group. Vermeer / Woman in blue / c.1663/1664 Vermeer, Jan (Johannes), called Vermeer van Delft, 1632-1675. 'Woman in blue reading a letter', c.1663/1664. Oil on canvas, 56.6 x 39.1cm. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum.