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Islington Branch Book Club - Past Titles: "Girl in Hyacinth Blue" by Susan Vreeland

Take a look through previous titles we've discussed at our Islington Branch Book Club

"Girl in Hyacinth Blue" by Susan Vreeland

  1. The Painting as a Character: The painting of the girl in hyacinth blue serves as a central motif throughout the novel. How does the painting evolve as a character in its own right, changing meaning and significance with each new owner and time period?

  2. Interconnected Stories: The novel is structured as a series of interconnected stories, each centered around the painting's owners and their experiences. How does this narrative structure contribute to the overall themes of interconnectedness, memory, and the passage of time?

  3. The Power of Art: Explore the theme of art's transformative power in the novel. How does the painting affect each character who encounters it, and what does it reveal about the nature of art and its ability to evoke emotion, provoke thought, and transcend time?

  4. Memory and Remembrance: Memory plays a significant role in the novel, as characters reflect on past events and their connection to the painting. How does memory shape the characters' perceptions of themselves and their relationships with others? Discuss the ways in which the past informs the present in the novel.

  5. Identity and Self-Discovery: Many characters in the novel undergo journeys of self-discovery and exploration of identity. How does the painting serve as a catalyst for these journeys, prompting characters to confront their own desires, fears, and truths?

  6. Historical Context: The novel spans several centuries, from the 17th century Dutch Golden Age to the present day. How does each historical period influence the characters' lives and interactions with the painting? Discuss the ways in which historical events shape individual experiences and perspectives.

  7. Loss and Longing: Loss and longing are recurring themes in the novel, as characters grapple with feelings of grief, regret, and unfulfilled desires. How do these emotions manifest in the characters' relationships with the painting, and what do they reveal about the human condition?

  8. Perspectives on Art: Different characters in the novel have varying perspectives on art and its value. Some see the painting as a priceless treasure, while others view it as a burden or a symbol of unattainable beauty. Discuss the characters' attitudes toward art and the role it plays in their lives.

  9. Fate and Coincidence: The novel explores themes of fate and coincidence, as characters' lives intersect in unexpected ways through their connection to the painting. How do chance encounters and serendipitous events shape the characters' destinies, and what do they reveal about the interconnectedness of human experience?

  10. Legacy and Impact: Reflect on the legacy of the painting and its impact on future generations. How do characters in the present day interpret and respond to the painting's history, and what significance does it hold for them? Discuss the ways in which the past continues to influence the present in the novel.

  11. Artistic Inspiration: Susan Vreeland's novel was inspired by Johannes Vermeer's famous painting, "Girl with a Pearl Earring." How does "Girl in Hyacinth Blue" explore themes of artistic inspiration, creativity, and the relationship between art and life?

  12. Reader's Response: Reflect on your personal response to the novel. What aspects of the story resonated with you the most, and why? How did the novel deepen your appreciation for art, history, and the interconnectedness of human stories?

Early Life and Education: Susan Vreeland was born on January 20, 1946, in Racine, Wisconsin, USA. She developed a passion for literature and art from a young age, which would later influence her writing career.

Vreeland attended San Diego State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. She later pursued graduate studies in education at the University of California, Berkeley.

Teaching Career: After completing her education, Susan Vreeland worked as an English teacher in high schools in San Diego, California. Her experience as an educator provided her with insights into storytelling and the power of literature to inspire and educate.

Literary Career: Susan Vreeland began her literary career as a short story writer before transitioning to writing novels. She gained recognition for her historical fiction novels inspired by art and artists, which combined meticulous research with vivid storytelling.

Vreeland's debut novel, "Girl in Hyacinth Blue" (1999), explores the provenance of a fictional Vermeer painting and the lives of its various owners throughout history. The novel received critical acclaim for its lyrical prose and richly drawn characters.

She continued to write novels inspired by art, including "The Passion of Artemisia" (2002), which tells the story of Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi, and "The Forest Lover" (2004), which explores the life of Canadian painter Emily Carr.

Vreeland's other notable works include "Luncheon of the Boating Party" (2007), based on Pierre-Auguste Renoir's famous painting, and "Clara and Mr. Tiffany" (2011), inspired by the life of American stained glass artist Clara Driscoll.

Personal Life and Legacy: Susan Vreeland resided in San Diego, California, with her husband, Wayne, until her passing in 2017. She left behind a legacy of literary works that celebrate art, creativity, and the human spirit.

Vreeland's novels continue to be beloved by readers for their evocative storytelling, meticulous research, and exploration of the lives of artists throughout history. Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have garnered international acclaim.

Susan Vreeland's passion for art and literature shines through in her writing, leaving behind a lasting impact on the world of historical fiction and inspiring readers to appreciate the beauty and depth of art in all its forms.


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