Sophia is a beautiful young woman married to a much older business man, Cornelis, in 1630’s Amsterdam. Cornelis helped to save her family from destitution after her father died bankrupt and she is eternally grateful. Cornelis is grateful himself to have such a beautiful wife that drives him mad with the desire. The only sadness in his world is that the two have not been able to have a baby. Cornelis loves beautiful things and has painter Jan van Loos come to paint a portrait of himself and Sophia. This sets a new path in their lives with Sophia and Jan falling madly in love with one another.
In order to have a future together, Sophia devices a scheme of madness that also entwines her servant Maria and Maria’s lover Willem. At the heart of the scheme is a full tumble of Sophia and Jan into tulip mania – a time in Amsterdam where fortunes were raised and squandered all based on the trade of tulip bulbs. The gambling takes its toll as Sophia says, “I met Jan in our trysting place beside the water fountain. He has lost weight, his cheeks are sunken. His hair, so shiny and curly when he first came to my house, is matted. He doesn’t greet me; eyes glittering, he grabs my wrist.
‘Tell me what we should do! Do you have the nerve?’ His grip tightens. ‘Luck’s been on our side, all these weeks. Tell me we should put all our eggs into one basket!’
He means, of course, the risk beyond risks: the most dangerous risk of all. The king of kings, the Semper Augustus. Claes van Hoogehelande has one bulb left.”
There are many twists and turns in the plot and I was constantly surprised. I won’t give anything further away so that you may discover it yourself. I loved that this book was at once historical fiction about a real time in Amsterdam history and a real artist (Jan van Loos) while also being a suspense story. Will Sophia and Jan be able to pull their scheme off? The short chapters started with a quote and switched point of views mostly between Sophia, Jan, Cornelis, Maria, and Willem. As the novel neared the end, I found myself unable to put it down and was amazed by the ending.
I was also intrigued by the Tulip mania. I remember learning about this in World History in high school and it still amazes me that so many people put their fortunes and futures all into tulip bulbs. I love flowers and tulips – but it’s hard to believe. What happened if it was a bad bulb that didn’t grow a flower? It was the first economic boom and burst bubble in history.
This is the March book club selection for the FLICKS (Rogue) Book and Movie club. I can’t wait to discuss it with the group on Thursday. There is a lot to talk about.
Overall, Tulip Mania is the best book I’ve read in 2016 thus far. It was a great story with memorable characters set in an intriguing time in history. I was wrapped up in the story and couldn’t put it down! It was a great quick read that will give us a lot to talk about at book club.
Book Source: Kewaunee Public Library