Review: August 28, 2016
I listened to this book via the Maine State Library System’s library.
And I was spellbound much of the time.
This novel, as you can see from the quote below, is in the genre that takes a historical item (a painting, like “The Girl with the Pearl Earring,” or an object like the cabinet below) and weaves a fictional tale around it, employing a ton of research in the process. And, as is true of most works of this kind, the tale tells you much more about issues in OUR time than it does with the effort to capture another world gone long ago. As always, I will caution, the fictional overlay does violence to the people of another world. We just bring with us our own culture no matter what; there is no such thing as totally objective “seeing” of another culture.
The review below also lists some of the weaknesses of the novel, with which I agree. There are some too-neat threads tied off, some fairly unbelievable acts by a very young heroine, and so forth.
However, the language is lush and enjoyable and the time period certainly interesting–the height of the Dutch trading era where merchants travel the world, bringing back exotic treasures.
It’s a good read.
Jessie Burton, a British actor turned fiction writer, takes inspiration for her debut novel from a curiosity cabinet on display at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Built in the late 17th century, it was commissioned by Petronella Oortman, who wanted an exact replica of the luxury townhouse in which she lived in the center of this magnificent city.