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    Best-Selling Alumna Author Returns to Campus
    by Betty Gabrielli
     
Book Cover: The Girl with a Pearl Earring

Courtesy of Tracy Chevalier
  Tracy Chevalier
   
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 Blue), 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 starring 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 paintings, 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.
    
   
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