October 30, 2003 -- When Tracy Chevalier '84 graduated from Oberlin
19 years ago, she had no idea that she would return to campus as
a best-selling author.
However, next month the author of the widely acclaimed historical novel Girl
with a Pearl Earring will come back to Oberlin to present two talks, do a book
signing, and give a reading from her work.
A native of Washington, D.C., Chevalier had one novel to her credit (Virgin
when she got the idea for her second--the story of a Dutch servant girl in the
household of 17th-century artist Jan Vermeer--from a reproduction of a painting
that hangs in her home in North London.
"One morning a couple of years ago, I was lying in bed worrying about what
I was going to write next," she recently recalled. "I looked up
at the painting and wondered what Vermeer did or said to the model to get her
to look like that. And right then I made up the story."
Published in 1999, the novel quickly became a word-of-mouth hit and a favorite
with book clubs. Readers were riveted by her extraordinarily detailed evocation
of the life of a girl in 17th-century Holland and the working methods of Vermeer,
a painter whose life is shrouded in mystery.
"This a wonderful novel, mysterious, steeped in atmosphere, and yet firmly
rooted in the drudgery
and denial of a servant's life," wrote Deborah Moggach for The Guardian. "It
is deeply revealing of the process of painting and best read with a volume of
Vermeer's paintings open beside you--it then becomes a truly magical experience."
To date, Girl with the Pearl Earring has sold more than 2 million copies
worldwide, has been translated into 21 languages, and is now a major motion picture
Colin Firth as Vermeer and Scarlett Johansson as the serving girl Griet.
Warmly welcomed last month at the Toronto Film Festival, the film received rave
reviews after its screening this month at the Hollywood Film Festival: "Peter
Webber's exquisite Girl with a Pearl Earring [is] a breathtaking feat
of imagination," said
the Los Angeles Times. "Shot in the lush, somber style of Vermeer's
Girl with a Pearl Earring evolves into a film as tense as it is ravishing."
The film will open nationwide in the U.S. in early December.