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  • Writer's pictureBirds Without Gender

Reading “Tulip Fever” By Deborah Moggach

Updated: Apr 23, 2019

In Amsterdam people have this fascinating habit of assembling small bookcases outside their homes with the books they’ve read and want to give away and you can pick up any book you want from them, as well as leave any books you want to give away. That is where I came across a copy of Tulip Fever the other day and I got it because it was the only book in english and it was a story about Amsterdam.

I had not heard about it before so I knew nothing about it. It turns out it is one of these books that hold you captive from the first page and you cannot let go of, until you’ve read the last page.

One of its greatest features, I found, is that the feelings and thoughts of the characters are expressed in a direct and straightforward way. A reader with weak confidence* might hold back in their appreciation of this element: the straightforwardness of the writing can have you intimidated at first and worried that you’ve picked up a really cheap love story (the viper sort, which I was actually reading when I was thirteen). A few pages down the line I could already see that this was not the case. And although this book is definitely an easy read, it builds up many layers of cleverly intertwined story plot, lively developed likeable characters** and a fascinating reviving of a place and a time. As a result I became really nervous about what was going to happen, almost thinking that there is a way that I could do something to assist the people in the story, have a cup of tea with them, hear them out.

Ultimately I felt I knew everybody’s secrets and points of view and I could sympathise or support them If I could have been asked to do so. What is more, I was completely transported to 17th century Amsterdam, I could smell the fog and see it in great liveliness, I could hear the sounds of the city, in other words I could feel it with all my senses, be awakened to its vibrant artistic atmosphere and the cultural elements of the time. I found it fascinating to learn about the culture and domestic technologies of the time, where people peed and what types of time telling devises they had and what would they eat for breakfast and such. Plus I got really excited getting more visuals into the Tulipmania effect, a phenomenon I had briefly read about in wikipedia last year (I am definitely inspired now to read Paul Zumthor 's “Daily Life in Rembrandt’s Holland”..I will let you know about that).

Overall it was an entertaining read, effective enough to serve as procrastination*** tool and sophisticated enough to have you satisfied that you have just read a good inspiring book and you have not wasted your time.


*reader with weak confidence: a reader who needs external validation to appreciate the value of a book and will base their opinions about it on preconceived ideas coming from critics & reviews, so as to decide whether the book is worth reading or not (which is most of us really, in some extend).

**lively developed likeable characters : characters that can carry the projection of some part of you. They can remind you of you, and express your own feelings, ideas and values or they can represent all that you fear and reject about yourself. For example in Tulip Fever there are particular characters that are careless and clumsy and can be easily fooled, character traits I most passionately fear, reject and repress in myself. As a result I dreaded those characters, they made me feel icky, they made me want to hide somewhere, never to to be found again! I am not getting into too much more detail about them here, so that I do not spoil the suspense of the plot, you will probably know who and what I am talking about when you read it.

***procrastination: activities you undertake as a way to avoid doing other activities that feel as an obligation, are challenging or difficult or boring, or due to universal order they are simply not supposed to be done at that moment or by you, even though with your mind you might think it is you who is supposed to do them or you are supposed to do them now.


Text by Birds WG

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