Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Cornelis Sandvoort is a successful merchant in 1630s Amsterdam. Widowed, he marries the much younger Sophia, the eldest daughter of a family that has been left impoverished by the death of the father. They have a somewhat happy life shared with their servant Maria. However, this joy is turned upside down when Cornelis decides to have their portrait painted by Jan van Loos, who brings unexpected passion to Sophia, whose actions impact all their lives. Though Moggach provides wonderful descriptions of Amsterdam, the book plods along to an anticipated ending that is somewhat disappointing. Listeners will get bogged down in the tedious conversations and meandering subplots, narrated by Rula Lenska, that add little to the story. Some editing might have made this better and more gripping. Those with a love of regency and other kinds of historical romances may enjoy this. Otherwise, not a necessary purchase.ÄDanna Bell-Russel, Library of Congress (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Although Moggach, a well-known TV writer and prolific novelist in her native Britain, has published here before, this book, a bestseller at home last year, is the one that is likely to be her breakout on this side of the water. It is yet another story set in 17th-century Holland involving a real-life artist, Jan van Loos. But whereas such books as Susan Vreeland's Girl in Hyacinth Blue and Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring concentrate on an artist's work, this is a headlong romantic drama that uses the painting of a portrait simply as a jumping-off point. Van Loos comes to paint Sophia, the pretty young wife of wealthy burger Cornelius Sandvoort, which starts a train of events that will irredeemably change all their lives. Sophia and the artist fall hopelessly in love; the Sandvoorts' servant, Maria, is having a child by a man who, thinking himself betrayed by her, has run off and joined the navy; meanwhile, Cornelius has always longed for a child. Out of these circumstances, the infatuated couple formulate a plot, but one that depends on getting together a great deal of money in a short time; hence, the frenzied speculation in the value of new and rare breeds of tulip that gives the book its title. Moggach puts all this together in a series of brief, breathless chaptersÄpacking in skillfully presented facts, atmosphere and colorÄeach told from a different point of view: even the hapless drunk who brings the whole scheme crashing down around Jan's and Sophia's ears is given his moment in the limelight, and the figure of the elderly, cuckolded lover is for once sympathetically drawn. The Amsterdam of the period is brought almost physically alive, and a wistful postlude looks back at all the romantic anguish from a serene distance. This is popular fiction created at a high pitch of craft and rapid readability. Movie rights sold to Steven Spielberg. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Young Sophia willingly married elderly Cornelius Sandvoort, a wealthy merchant, to escape poverty and help her family. She realizes that she has a good life with an honorable man but everything changes when her husband decides to have their portrait painted as is the custom for well-to-do families in seventeenth-century Amsterdam. Jan van Loos, a talented, penniless painter, awakens Sophia's desires, and she succumbs, too, to the two Dutch passions for art and tulips. In order to flee Amsterdam together, the lovers need money, so they decide to gamble their limited resources on the latest craze of tulip speculation: if they buy the right bulb they can make a sizable fortune. But as their scheme gets closer to fruition, things begin to unravel. Moggach's lush and sensuously written novel will appeal to romantics as well as fans of historical novels, and the film rights have been sold to Steven Spielberg. --Patty Engelmann
Kirkus Book Review
A pallid account of adultery and deception somewhat enriched'but not much'by its 17th-century Dutch setting. Young Sophia has saved herself and her family by marrying wealthy, amiable Cornelis Sandvoort, 40 years her senior. After three years of marriage, with as yet no heir, Cornelis tries for the next best route to immortality by engaging Jan van Loos to paint the couple's portrait. With this one display of vanity begins the twisting plot of a moral fable that dooms all the players involved, transforming their tidy Amsterdam into a watery labyrinth of deceit. Shortly after meeting for the first sitting, Jan and Sophia begin a torrid affair. They steal through the streets in disguise and pass notes through servants, risking everything for just the briefest contact. When Sophia's maid, Maria, becomes pregnant, the lovers concoct an outlandish plan they hope will buy their freedom. With a pillow tucked under her gown, Sophia pretends also to be pregnant; she plans to pawn off Maria's illegitimate baby as her own, to 'die' in childbirth, then run off with Jan. The novel's title suggests the historical phenomenon that may aid the illicit pair. Gripped in 'tulip fever,' the Amsterdam of 1636 uses bulbs as a trading commodity, their value based on rareness of color and singularity of bloom. The flowers can make or break futures in an afternoon, and it's on this chaotic fluctuation that Jan and Sophia depend to make their fortune. Immersed in the language of flowers and the imagery of Dutch still lifes, the story's best moments mimic the stilled perfection of painting. But at the same time, more often than not, Moggach's reserved, objectified tone distances the reader. An interesting conceit with little emotional impact, making for a tale more reserved and two-dimensional than burgeoning with its lives.