Simone van der Vlught comes to the blog today with a novel, in translation from Dutch, set in the Golden Age of the country, the 17th century. Please read on for my review of
Following the tale of Catrin, we have a glimpse into the times: married at 17 and widowed by 25, she’s left her small village and taken a post as housekeeper with a successful merchant family, the wife spending her time in painting lessons from the master, Rembrandt. One of Catrin’s joys is the paintings and art she’s seeing for the first time, and with encouragement from her mistress’ teacher, she perhaps has a new and more creative option. But her past is never far behind, and one who knows her secret has discovered her whereabouts, forcing Catrin to flee, again, this time to Delft, a place soon to be known for its unique blue and white pottery – an attempt to rival the fine Chinese porcelains so in demand by the masses.
In Delft, a new opportunity arises as her gift with a brush provide her a living, and she is soon consumed with her new life and new-found independence as a pottery painter, leaving the past and its scandals behind her. Much of the history of both import and trade, as well as insights into art, life and the history of Delft pottery are revealed, all as part of Catrin’s story. Of course, the past arrives again to threaten her new life, and decisions must be made.
Overall, I enjoyed the history presented here, even as I had some issues with the language attributed to Catrin and her contemporaries. It was often far too modern, and her own behaviors were very forward for the time and her position – she was a far more ‘modern’ figure than one would or should expect, even if she was able to make a living from her own talent. While the writing, in translation, didn’t feel stilted or particularly off, the mix of Catrin’s present with the secrets and scandal of her past, and her very decidedly modern feel just didn’t blend with the historic information or feel that I wished were more prevalent as I read. But, it was interesting and engaging for the history and setting, giving a sense, if not wholly accurate, of the time and place for one woman as she lived her life.
Title: Midnight Blue
Author: Simone van der Vlught
Genre: Historical Fiction, Setting: Netherlands, Seventeenth Century
Published by: William Morrow
Published on: 26 June, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Audio Length: 9 Hours: 11 minutes
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From Simone Van Der Vlugt comes her European bestselling novel of a young woman's rise as a painter in Holland's Golden Age—perfect for readers of The Miniaturist, Tulip Fever, and Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Amsterdam 1654: against the backdrop of Holland's Golden Age, a dangerous secret threatens to destroy a young widow's new life.
Following the sudden death of her husband, twenty-five-year-old Catrin leaves her small village and takes a job as a housekeeper to the successful Van Nulandt merchant family. Amsterdam is a city at the peak of its powers: science and art are flourishing in the Golden Age and Dutch ships bring back exotic riches from the Far East. Madam Van Nulandt passes her time taking expensive painting lessons from a local master, Rembrandt van Rigin, and when Catrin takes up a brush to finish some of her mistress's work, Rembrandt realizes the maid has genuine talent and encourages her to continue.
When a figure from her past threatens her new life, Catrin flees to the smaller city of Delft. There, her gift as a painter earns her a chance to earn a living painting pottery at a local workshop. Slowly, the workshop begins to develop a new type of pottery to rival fancy blue-on-white imported Chinese porcelain—and the graceful and coveted Delft Blue designs she creates help revolutionize the industry. But when tragedy strikes, Catrin must decide whether to defend her newfound independence or return to the village that she'd fled.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: