I spent most of July studying the novel, reading it on trains, the way I used to draw on my way to and from work, switching pencils or crayons, erasing, while standing in a train carriage of reportedly the most crowded line in Tokyo.
A jewel of a novel, a reviewer said of Tracy Chevalier's most successful work so far. I agree. The novel reminded me of a phrase I had long forgotten: the plain style, on which I had once written a ninety-thousand word thesis.
Tracy Chevalier has a deceptively simple style, in writing as in speaking. Most of the time, the truth is told in the simplest words. And she certainly tells it. I am touched by both her thorough research and her rich imagination.
I remember one Sunday back in Nottingham, Helen the curate and I went for coffee after the morning service. She said she was going to get hold of a copy of Girl with a Pearl Earring. Back then I didn't know what the novel had to offer. I only saw the film in 2006, some time after I returned to Japan. I fell in love right away with the film, and with Scarlett Johansson's Griet. Still I didn't think of reading the novel itself.
I only tumbled over the book a few weeks ago, in the foreign book section of the local library in my new neighbourhood. It came in the right place at the right time, que le ciel soit loué. It reminds me that not everybody has to write like Márquez. There are women out there who choose to write about women, and in their own authentic voices.
The Vermeer exhibition in Tokyo starts on 2 August. Waiting another thirty-five hours? I don't know how I can cope.