Tracy Chevalier is the author of historical novels, including Girl with a Pearl Earring, which was made into an Oscar-nominated film. Her latest book, At the Edge of the Orchard, is the brutal yet tender story set in 19th century Ohio.
The Little House in the Big Woods
by Laura Ingalls Wilder
This is the first in the Little House series. I read them when I was about seven and loved them all. Laura had plain mousy hair and was naughty and I really related to her.
The mother in the book, Ma, is a central character—the glue that holds the family together. My mother was ill when I was growing up and died before I was eight.
I think I was looking for that ideal of the perfect mother and close-knit family and found much comfort in these books.
by Rose Tremain
Rose did something extraordinary with this novel by making it feel utterly contemporary, even though it’s set in 1660, the year of the restoration of the monarchy and the accession of Charles II.
She brings a modern, emotional feel to the period and opened my eyes to what historical novels can achieve. The key is finding universal truths that remain constant through time—and then playing them for all they’re worth.
The Vermeer Exhibition Catalogue
from the Johannes Vermeer Exhibition in The Hague, 1996
I’ve always loved Vermeer and try to see as many of his paintings as possible. So when this exhibition came to The Hague, my husband and I flew over.
Back home with the catalogue, I was looking at “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and thinking, Why is she looking at the painter like that? and the idea for my book began to take shape.
They didn’t know who the girl was and that felt like a gift to me—because it meant I could just make it up.