Monday, July 26, 2010

Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland

(In which colors on a framed canvas embark on a journey to share light.)


“I have decided to focus on a genre to help me choose what books to read,” I told Teacher Jean one afternoon.

“And what is it?” she queried with her signature intent look that tells you she’s paying attention.

“Art in fiction.”

“Let me guess. Was it inspired by the author of The Forest Lover?”

“Yes. You know the feeling of finally finding something you can grasp and appreciate, right? That’s how it is with her books. It’s like reading a work of a real artist.” And I went on intoxicating her with art jargon.

“Whoa!” she exclaimed, overwhelmed. “That’s one reason why I don’t usually read that stuff. There seems so much to be digested.’ And that started an enjoyable exchange of literary opinions.

We decided to trade books. She mentioned her predilection for those about Black psyche and I knew right then and there that I’ll give her Stacy Patton’s That Mean Old Yesterday as my part of the book barter. The next day, she sent me a text message that just blew my mind off.

“Good morning. Guess what I found in my shelf! Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland. And I’m sure you know who she is. See you later.”

I screamed for joy and was excited to go to work for the first time in a very long time. I started reading the book and was caught by a beautiful surprise that never left even after I unclip the magnetic bookmark.

The novel is a compilation of eight stories of eight different people from different time but with one lovely connection – an alleged Vermeer painting. The story is narrated in a reverse chronology to offer a wonderful time travelling experience to the readers who bear silent witnesses to the journey the painting takes and to discover if it was indeed a Vermeer. The discovery of which will leave questions to the readers regarding the action of the present owner, Cornelius: will he keep the painting or destroy it?

In an era where technology is slowly taking over painstakingly handmade art, Girl in Hyacinth Blue offers a fresh reason for everyone to appreciate traditional arts and its value – the wonderful ways they touch human lives. Sadly, however, the novel also depicts the harsh reality that almost all artists face in the name of talent and fame.

Routing back to seventeenth century Amsterdam, Girl in Hyacinth Blue takes its readers to a complex web of stories designed to show the magical relief and inspiration a silent and mysterious girl by a window offers its owners and to marvel at how a masterpiece outlive tradition and survive standards. Its value is beyond measure that the possibility of its being a Vermeer would only be the icing on the cake. What’s more important is that the artist poured his talent and heart into every careful brush strokes to produce an artwork that would show the world something beyond light, figure and color. And it did.

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