I've read several of Tracy Chevalier's books starting with the Girl with the Pearl Earring because I had an interest in Vermeer and often prefer my history to come in the package of well written historical fiction. I must say that I'm a bit surprised by many of the comments for this one, as I think it is one of her best. Maybe it's because I'm a transplant to Ohio and have also been overwhelmed by the sight of redwoods and giant sequoias. I loved the sections of letters and how they tied the story together. On the back cover it was praised by Joanne Harris-another of my favorite storytellers.