The book is about a [fictional] Vermeer painting and its journey through time (from its manifestation as oil paint on canvas to the home of its current possessor) and the hands it passed through and affected along the way. It starts from present time and goes back, with each chapter seen through the perspective of each of its owners, all the way back to the painting's subject, a young girl who gazes longingly out a window. Vreeland is wonderful with her descriptions, especially those of the actual painting and how the light reflects off of different pieces in the work. Vermeer was known for his masterful techniques and talent for painting light and the imagined painting absolutely comes to life the further you read. It makes you want to immediately go to a museum and study Vermeer's brushstrokes and imagine the life that he and his subjects lived. It's always amazed me (and is part of the reason I love art so much) how differently each person can interpret a piece of art and how diverse people's reasons for loving or hating it can be. This book explores that and gives glimpses of each person's reaction to the painting.
The book apparently began as a couple of interconnected short stories that Vreeland had previously written and published, but the novel doesn't read like a collection of short stories. They're unified and flow well and she does a wonderful job of pulling the chapters together and fleshing out all of the characters. A very enjoyable read indeed. It would be interesting to reread it from back to front cover so that the events are in chronological order. I highly recommend for those who enjoyed Girl with a Pearl Earring.