Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas


Written in 1850, The Black Tulip is one of Alexandre Dumas shorter historical novels, just the thing for a quick read at the end of the year. If you're in the mood for a classic but don't want to commit to something lengthy, or if you've never read Dumas and are intimidated by his longer works, this is a good choice.

Set in 1672, this book is not set in France but in Holland, during the height of the tulip mania, and also of political unrest. It begins with the lynching of two politicians, Johan and Cornelis de Witt, who are actual historical figures. I found the background somewhat confusing but the upshot is that one of the victims is the godfather of the main character, Cornelius van Baerle, a young doctor and tulip fancier. 

About the time of the lynching, a challenge has been issued: the first person to successfully breed a pure black tulip will be awarded one hundred thousand florins. Cornelius has been working on such a tulip and has a jealous neighbor and rival tulip fancier, Isaac Boxtel, who will stop at nothing to steal the prize for himself. He gets Cornelius imprisoned on trumped-up charges, much like Edmund Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo. But the noble Cornelius has an ally -- Rosa, the beautiful daughter of the nasty jailer Gryphus, who naturally falls in love with him.

If it all sounds over-the-top and overly dramatic, well, it is. There's not a lot of character development and the plot is fairly predictable, but it's interesting and has a satisfying ending. I think was just intrigued by this book because I'm interested in the time period, and, quite frankly, because I love tulips. I'm really hoping to visit Holland next spring during the tulip festival. 


I'm also looking forward to the upcoming Tulip Fever movie adaptation scheduled for release next year. It has lots of big stars in it, including Judi Dench, Christoph Waltz and Alicia Vikander, so I hope I can see it in English in a movie theater close by (we do have a movie theater on the Air Force Base nearby but smaller films don't always have showings and the German theater has limited movies in English; I may end up having to wait and watch it on DVD).

Anyway, this was a quick an enjoyable read and it's on my Classics Club list and I'm also counting it for my final Back to the Classics Challenge category, Classic by a Non-White Author. I'm finally finished!

And don't forget there are only a few days left to link your posts for the challenge! Remember, you only need six classics to qualify and they can be from any of the categories.

6 comments:

  1. I was still at school when I read this and I remember loving it. It was serialised on television. Simon Ward was Cornelius and we all fancied him. (It was a LONG time ago, he didn't age well!)

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    1. I'll have to see if anyone's posted it on YouTube. Thanks!

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  2. I'm glad you enjoyed this. I read it a few years ago and loved it. It's surprisingly short for a Dumas novel!

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    1. It was a quick read! I had originally wanted to read The Man in the Iron Mask but then I realized there were novels I'd skipped after The Three Musketeers. This was a nice, quick alternative.

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  3. Nice review. This has increased my interest in this author; I've yet to read any of his works. This book sounds really entertaining.

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    1. This would probably be a good introduction if you're put off by the length of his better-known books.

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