Pearls have been a treasured part of cultures since ancient times. The "pearl of great price" mentioned in the Bible has captured imaginations of many and authors have explored the idea of pearls in many ways.
"[This novel] narrates the creation of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer's painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring. The "Girl" in Chevalier's version is 16-year-old Griet, who goes to live with the Vermeer household as a maid and becomes increasingly intimate with Vermeer as she takes on duties as a private assistant."
"In 1948, a nineteen-year-old Japanese pearl diver is in her fourth season of perfecting the techniques of her age-old occupation. But her dreams of spending her life diving in the waters of the Inland Sea are shattered when she discovers that she has leprosy. She knows that the shame attached to the disease is inescapable: rejection by her family is imminent, exile unavoidable.
"No more than two months elapse before authorities send her off to a leprosarium on the island of Nagashima, and although it is only seven miles from her home, it is a world away from all that is familiar to her. At once, she is instructed to forget her past, to strike her name from the koseki, the family register, and ordered to choose a new name. As 'Miss Fuji' looks around her, she sees her own future in the debilitated bodies and the lives of the more than two thousand other patients. But her 'future' never comes; her own case of leprosy remains a mild one owing to the discovery of a medicine that impedes the disease’s progression in its victims."