Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Golden Tulip by Rosalind Laker

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In 18th century Holland, after the tulip trade boom, the Dutch people turn their interests and their hearts to artists such as Rembrandt and Franz Halls. Hendrick Visser is a student of art under Franz Hall. The sale of his paintings would earn him a comfortable living were it not for his compulsive gambling and incessant drinking. His vices continually force his family into a hand-to-mouth existence and always on the edge of devastation and financial ruin. Despite his failings, his wife Anna, and three daughters Francesca, Aletta, and Sybylla, love him and help him through his scrapes. When Hendrick’s wife dies in childbirth, his three daughters become even more vulnerable to their father’s vice-driven whims and desperate acts.
Francesca, Hendrick’s eldest daughter is a talented artist and she has been assigned to study with Johannes Vermeer, a master artist from Delft. Francesca falls in love with Pieter van Doorne, a tulip merchant. Meanwhile, Hendrick looses heavily at gambling. Desperate to pay off his gambling debts, he secretly enters into an arrangement and ransoms Francesca off to unscrupulous man named Ludolf van Deventer who has become obsessed with her, even to the point of committing murder. Not only is Francesca terrified of the man, but she is also repulsed by him.

Aletta is fearful of leaving her future in the hands of her father so she begins to paint, selling her work secretly to a lower class of society. When Hendrick discovers her sub-standard clandestine ventures into the art world, he destroys her paintings and banishes her from his home and his life.

Sybylla seeks escape through marriage into a rich family and is highly materialistic.

The Golden Tulip is a tale about the three sisters and their struggles to overcome the turmoil in their lives caused not only by societal mores and values, but by addiction. Rosalind Laker sweeps her reader into 18th century Holland, successfully bringing to life wonderful vividness and authenticity. She knows well the customs, history, and world of artists during that time. As always, her novels have wonderful three dimensional characters and extraordinary plot twists. Rosalind Laker’s novels never ever disappoint and always make for fascinating reads.

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