Francesca's father is a well-known painter in the bustling port city of Amsterdam; he is also a gambler. Though their household is in economic chaos, thankfully the lessons she learned in his studio have prepared her to study with Johannes Vermeer, the master of Delft.
When she arrives to begin her apprenticeship, Francesca is stunned to find rules, written in her father's hand, insisting that she give up the freedoms she once enjoyed at home- including her friendship with Pieter van Doorne, a tulip merchant. Unaware of a terrible bargain her father has made against her future, Francesca pursues her growing affection for Pieter even as she learns to paint like Vermeer, in layers of light. As her talent blooms, "tulip mania" sweeps the land, and fortunes are being made on a single bulb. What seems like a boon for Pieter instead reveals the extent of the betrayal of Francesca's father. And as the two learn the true nature of the obstacles in their path, a patron of Francesca's father determines to do anything in his power to ensure she stays within the limits that have been set for her.
The Golden Tulip brings one of the most exciting periods of Dutch history alive, creating a page-turning novel that is as vivid and unforgettable as a Vermeer painting.
Love, tulips, painting, Dutch patriotism and the dynamics of personal and political power inform Laker's sprawling saga, set in Holland during the time of Rembrandt and Vermeer (both of whom serve as secondary characters). Francesca is the eldest daughter of the painter Hendrik Visser and a talented artist in her own right. So is middle sister, Aletta, while the youngest, Sybella, is far more interested in marrying well. Hendrik is successful, but his drinking and gambling keep the family in penury. Once the girls' mother dies, Francesca has new responsibilities, which she must soon balance with an apprenticeship to a little-known Vermeer. Tulip grower Pieter van Doorne makes a delivery at the house one day while Francesca prepares to pose as flower goddess Flora for her father. Pieter is instantly smitten, but the man who commissioned the Flora painting, wealthy ship owner Ludolf van Deventer, has designs on Flora, as well as on the country's political future. Laker (To Dance with Kings) excels at broad-strokes portraiture, moving from 17th-century intrigue to intimate glimpses of daily life. The absorbing plot unfolds slowly and conveys real passion for both life and work. (Nov.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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November 26, 2007
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