Archives for Amsterdam

Book review: Tulip Fever

Amsterdam in the 17th century was a time when commerce was king and the sale of tulip bulbs made some people very rich and others bankrupt. This is the setting for Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach, when Rembrandt and Vermeer painted some of the most-recognised art of our time. Sophia’s husband Cornelis is rich, thanks to tulips, and he celebrates his wealth by commissioning a joint portrait to be painted. It is a decision which changes their lives. The deft switching of viewpoints – and each chapter is a single voice, Sophia, Cornelis, Jan [the painter], Maria [their servant] and Willem [Maria’s lover] – allows for a new take on each situation. The plot moves quickly, things are hinted at and passed over but relevant later. It is the sort of novel which seems simple but has hidden depths. The language can be so sensual. “Jacob van Loos is not painting the old man’s mouth. He is painting Sophia’s lips. He mixes pink on his palette – ochre, grey and carmine – and strokes the paint lovingly on the canvas. She is gazing at him. For a moment, when the old man was talking, her lips curved into a smile
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Miniaturist

Eighteen-year-old Nella starts her new life as a married woman at her husband’s home in Amsterdam. He is a wealthy merchant and it is an arranged marriage. But Nella finds herself in a world she did not expect: a husband never at home, an abrupt and unwelcoming sister-in-law, two servants who behave as if life on the Herengracht is full of secrets. Nella feels always at a disadvantage. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is an intriguing treasure box of a story. Johannes Brandt’s wedding gift to his wife is a cabinet, a kind of empty doll’s house for a young woman, a miniature of their home intended to be used by a young woman to learn how to run a home. “The accuracy of the cabinet is eerie, as if the real house has been shrunk, its body sliced in two and its organs revealed.” It frightens her but she is unable to formulate why. There is other disturbing imagery to suggest life in the house is not as it first appears. On the dark walls there are paintings of dead animals and at Nella’s first public outing as a wife, to the Silver Guild dinner, Nella meets Agnes Meermans. Agnes wears
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Categories: Book Love.