Seventeenth-century Amsterdam is a city in the grip of tulip mania, basking in the wealth it has generated.
Sophia’s husband Cornelis, an ageing merchant, is among those grown rich from this exotic new flower. To celebrate, he commissions a talented young artist to paint him with his young bride. But as the portrait grows, so does the passion between Sophia and the painter; and as ambitions, desires and dreams breed an intricate deception, their reckless gamble propels their lives towards a thrilling and tragic conclusion.
"Sumptuous prose ... reads like a thriller." (The New York Times Book Review)
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Adultery, Amsterdam, mania
I'm afraid I didn't enjoy Rula Lenska's narration. I thought I would, but she didn't always pronounce things correctly. Her tone was very drab in the low notes and croaky higher up, making some of the characters quite annoying, and I found her interpretation of Cornelis made him creepier than he needed to be! She didn't encourage my sympathy with the protagonist either.
I guess the Girl with the Pearl Earring, owing to the Amsterdam setting, its famous painters, the 17th century, and the focus on female characters.
Not for me, I'm afraid. I can still hear one of the characters crying and it was grating like nails on a blackboard. Sorry, Rula!
I purchased because I have recently visited Amsterdam and learned a lot more about its history, and the book had good reviews. I'm going to read Black Tulip by Dumas next, to explore another/older take on tulip mania.
I know this has been made into a film which I think will be released next year - I can see it being more compelling on screen, with the evocative shadows in the dark canal houses, and shimmering reflections from the canals, the mists and sounds of the period, and the haunting pace which could be achieved by following characters around the narrow streets: a good director could make a really great film, but I'm afraid Rula Lenska's reading soured me towards the book more than if I'd just read it myself.