Also by this author: The Count Of Monte Cristo
Published by Penguin Books Limited on 2003-04-24
Genres: Classics, Fiction, Historical, Literary
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Cornelius von Baerle lives only to cultivate the elusive black tulip and win a magnificent prize for its creation. But when his powerful godfather is assassinated, the unwitting Cornelius becomes caught up in a deadly political intrigue. Falsely accused of high treason by a bitter rival, Cornelius is condemned to life in prison. His only comfort is Rosa, the jailer's beautiful daughter, who helps him concoct a plan to grow the black tulip in secret. As Robin Buss explains in his informative introduction, Dumas infuses his story with elements from the history of the Dutch Republic (including two brutal murders) and Holland's seventeenth-century "tulipmania" phenomenon.
Y’all I am an Alexandre Dumas fan girl. If I could resurrect him and make him be my writer boyfriend, I totally would (sorry boo!). Last summer I read the unabridged Count of Monte Cristo translated by Robin Buss* over a period of two weeks. I am a generally fast reader, especially when I have few work hours, however, I really wanted to savor the experience. Dumas is a high calibre writer, his stories are swashbuckling, exciting, and often tinged with romance. Basically it has everything I could ask for out of a book.
The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas begins with political strife. Two brothers in Holland are murdered by the people because of their correspondence with this French guy. How nutty. The crazy definitely hooked me. We then go on to meet Cornelius who is the godson of one of the brothers. He’s in his 20s, he’s rich and obsessed with tulips. Yes, that’s right, flowers. I guess in the 1670s flowers were all the rage, kind of like yachts for rich people. People were just mad about tulips in Holland. Jealousy leads to some CoMC-esque actions, oh hai Albert nice to see you here.
However, The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas departs from the CoMC formula. Friends, I was enraptured. Although The Black Tulip did not have the girth of CoMC, it has that compulsive readability where I absolutely needed to know what would happen. Often, Dumas would make asides to the reader, which I love, love love because it really felt as though there was someone sitting there telling a story to me.
There is a female lead, Rosa, who exhibits courage and a cool head. She’s the one who tells her father and Cornelius exactly what they need to do to be safe. However, she’s also given the attribute of purity, which I feel must have been a pre-requisite of her time. Seeing as how she is smart and hot and her milkshake brings the boys to the yard, she needs to be pure too.
One thing I picked up on in The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas was socioeconomic status — it seems like the poor were portrayed as ignorant, bloodthirsty nuts. I feel the message I come across in Dumas‘s books is that only through money are people happy. Now, I’ve only read two Dumas books, so this is definitely a leap to conclusions, but I think Dumas tends to portray the wealthy as having more virtue than the poor. Granted, yes he inserts some rude wealthy people. The poor virtuous person is often rewarded for their virtue with vast amounts of money. Perhaps this was normal for literature of the time, but I’m no expert on classics, so I can’t say that for certain.
The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas made me want to abandon my reading commitments and kick back with the rest of Dumas’s catalogue. Alas, that is not in my stars for awhile.
This was reviewed as part of the amazing Classics Circuit