The Girl With The Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier, is an eloquent and successful intertwining of fact and fiction. Depicting life in the 1600's with great detail, while at the same time intriguing readers with an eloquent and imaginative explanation of the mysterious painting by Vermeer. I believe that the author's goal was to do exactly this; teach readers about the artist Vermeer and his time period, while at the same time telling a fascinating and well-written tale. .
The main character is a young girl named Greit, and the story follows her as she is forced to mature as she becomes independent. It tracks Griet's life-changing two years as she serves the Delft painter, Johannes Vermeer. Her life is lonesome, as she finds herself growing apart from her family while living as an outsider in Vermeer's home. Plus, it doesn't help that with the exception of the painter himself, the Vermeer family is not particularly fond of her; and as Maria Thins, Vermeer's mother-in-law, says, "Never so much trouble with a maid before" (82). .
Greit is suddenly thrown into a completely new setting, with new people and a foreign religion. She must struggle to find a way to make a place for herself in a chaotic Catholic household run by Vermeer's capricious wife, Catharina, his astute mother-in-law, Maria Thins, and their intensely loyal maid, Tanneke. In addition, there are six children (with more to come) in the household, including an outspoken six-year-old girl named Cornelia, whose mischievous ways get Greit into a lot of trouble.
Plus, the real trouble comes when Vermeer takes a special partiality to Greit, which causes constant uproar and resentment throughout the household. Griet is granted the privilege of helping Vermeer in his studio; no one else is allowed in the studio, not even his wife. First it was only cleaning the studio and grinding paint, but then it got dodgy when Vermeer agreed, at the patron's request, to paint Greit.