Hello after a long break, faithful readers! It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on this blog. I just got back from a much needed vacation to Europe, and I’m finally back in the saddle and ready to write again.
My family and I gleefully jetted off to Amsterdam as a first stop in our latest European adventure. This was my youngest son’s first European vacation, so we wanted an easy entry point to the continent – friendly people who spoke American English, lots of charm, and easy to navigate.
Part of a great vacation is vicariously living in your destination through books and travel guides before you get there. Before we went to Amsterdam (and while I was there), I had the pleasure of reading several novels set in Amsterdam’s golden age of the 17th century, bringing the charming houses along the canals and their inhabitants to life. Here are my favorites:
The Coffee Trader, by David Liss. If you like intrigue and financial dealings, this is the book for you. The scheming was like the Survivor show on steroids. This novel starts out slowly, but stick with it. I couldn’t put it down once I eventually got into it. Set in 17th century Amsterdam, a trader tries to introduce a new drink, coffee, to the Dutch. This novel also includes an interesting history of the Jewish community in Amsterdam.
Tulip Fever, by Deborah Moggach. This book is more about romance than tulips, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. A young girl is married off to an old Dutch merchant. A young handsome painter comes to paint their portrait – the perfect set-up for a 17th century soap opera. Good light reading.
The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton. This is a weird book. I still don’t know quite what to make of it, but the writing was marvelous, and I couldn’t put it down. Also set in 17th century Amsterdam, also involving a young woman married off to a guy she hardly knows. The iconic centerpiece of this novel is a dollhouse modelled after the house where the main characters live. Miniatures of real life people, pets, and objects mysteriously show up on the door step. Fascinating…but weird.
All these books are about $10 in paperback and also available on Kindle.
Cynthia Coe is the author of the novels Ginger’s Reckoning and Runaway Kitty, along with several books on spiritual formation.