Vermeer opening


In February 1998 I began researching the novel Girl with a Pearl Earring. Little did I know that 25 years later I would still be talking about that painting and that painter. Indeed, I seem to have become something of a Vermeer ambassador.

This became apparent last week when I visited the new Vermeer exhibition at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam during Press Day. I was reviewing it for BBC Radio and for The Art Newspaper, but I ended up getting interviewed about All Things Vermeer: his enduring qualities, his appeal, and how much my novel played a part in boosting interest in him.That last question was hard to answer without sounding either immodest or too modest!

I was thrilled to be there and feel for myself what it's like to be among 28 of Vermeer's 37 known works. The curators have done a wonderful job presenting them in a very Vermeer manner, on soberly painted walls with plenty of space around each. The paintings positively glow from the walls, and because there are so few, it's easy to spend a lot of time with each, and to walk back and forth between them, comparing and contrasting. They retain their mysterious power, and it is in fact enhanced by being amongst their own. I was entranced, moved beyond tears. Without being hyperbolic, it was up there as one of the top art experiences of my life. I urge you to go if you can - though as I write it is already 3/4 sold out. Here at least is a little taste of the show made by the Museum and narrated by Stephen Fry:

Stephen Fry on Rijksmuseum Vermeer show

 And here are some photos:

 Vermeer 1

Vermeer 2

Vermeer 3

Vermeer 4


Finally, a photo Associated Press photographer Peter Dejong couldn't resist taking of me (watermarked so it can't be used beyond here):

TC by AP

© AP Photo/Peter Dejong

I'm particularly pleased that my earrings match her scarf!

It's officially summer in the northern hemisphere, but I'm looking back on an incredible spring: specifically 3rd April 2022, and the premiere of Girl with a Pearl Earring: The Opera at Zurich Opera House. That's right, an opera!

That novel about a Dutch painting is having a long and blessed life. When I wrote it back in 1998, I could imagine it as a film, a radio dramatization, even a play. But never did I expect it to become an opera.

The music is by Swiss composer Stefan Wirth, the libretto by Philip Littell. It's Stefan who got the ball rolling several years ago: when Zurich Opera House suggested he write them a new opera and asked what subject he wanted to do, he chose my novel! I owe him a great debt for his passion and determination.

It is a very modern opera, with music that is more textural than melodic. The orchestra is full of percussion making strange noises. The staging is minimalist, with a big lightbox revolving around. There's so little on stage that when you see a bucket, or a flower, or a chair, it becomes important.

There are 8 singers, all superb. Lauren Snouffer sings Griet, and what a part - she's on stage the whole time. And the eminent Thomas Hampson is Vermeer.

I was lucky enough to attend rehearsals early on, and director Ted Huffman was incredibly generous not only in allowing me into the room, but letting me speak and asking me questions! I loved watching the singers explore their parts and build the opera from the ground up.

And then, the premiere: a full house, friends and family in the audience, a buzz in the air. 

Vermeer and Griet in dress

Vermeer Catharina Griet

Vermeer Children

kim stage bow 3 edit

I got to take a stage bow with composer Stefan Wirth!

The response to the opera has been remarkable, with both audience and critics loving it. Yes, it's minimalist stage, yes, the music is different and challenging. But the story is clear and recognisable, with characters you care about. I am thrilled. For a brief taste of what the opera looks and sounds like, here's a trailer:

The opera performances are over for now, but there are hopes that it will travel in the next few years to other opera houses. I will keep you posted!


Today is the 25th anniversary of the publication of my first novel, The Virgin Blue. Amazing to think so much time has passed! I've written 9 more books since and had many literary adventures all over the place. To celebrate this milestone, I've made a rough-and-ready video of a few highlights (with the help of an Elvis Costello soundtrack - I have made a donation to Help Musicians UK in thanks). Enjoy!





After 18 months of remaining in the UK, last month I finally managed to go to Venice, where my next novel takes place. It has been incredibly frustrating writing a story set in the most beautiful city in the world and not being able to go there! So I was thrilled - and sometimes overwhelmed - to have so much to see and do and absorb. I felt like a well that had run dry and was now refilling.

Speaking of wells, there is usually one in every courtyard in Venice. Here is a gorgeous one on Murano, the glass island just off Venice, where much of the book takes place, as it's about a family of glassmakers:

murano well

 You may know that I try to do the things my characters do so that I can describe it with more authenticity. So while in Venice, I made glass beads:

 TC bead making

 And I tried rowing a shrimp-tailed batela - kind of like a gondola but not as hard (it was still hard)!

 TC rowing

 Let me show you the real deal:

Venice gondola

It is almost impossible to take a bad picture in Venice. I don't know about WRITING about Venice, though. So many have gone before me, and avoiding clichés is hard...








Where am I?

The literal answer is that I'm in Dorset, in southwest England. Normally we live in London, but many of the things that make it special - variety, diversity, theatre, restaurants, crowds, culture - we have not been able to enjoy this past year. And with lockdowns and high Covid numbers in cities, we've found it easier and safer to live the rural life, where social distance is the norm and we are surrounded by beauty.

But you are likely a reader and what you want to know is: where am I in the new novel? This morning I am outside of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, a jewel of a church in Venice. It is foggy and my heroine Orsola is discussing men with Klara, a character who is suddenly becoming more important. It is the 18th century, time of Casanova and Grand Tours and Carnival and a certain loucheness. Venice has gone from being the centre of European trade to a party town.

I'm a little over halfway through the novel, and that is always a dangerous time, as you will know from reading plenty of them. Often novels sag 2/3 of the way through. The place and the characters and the situation are all set up, and the ending is clear, but there's time to kill before we can get there. Sometimes writers add new characters or twists or subplots. Sometimes the story just...plods along. I am trying not to let that happen, but push my heroine Orsola into situations that deepen her character and our understanding of her, without it being unnecessary filler. Hard. Next time you read a novel, keep an eye out and see what the writer does at this crucial point.

So, here I am, literally writing in Dorset. Cat and tea optional. Happy summer!

TC writing Plush