Review of The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas

Review of The Black Tulip by Alexandre DumasThe Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas
Also by this author: The Count Of Monte Cristo
Published by Penguin Books Limited on 2003-04-24
Genres: Classics, Fiction, Historical, Literary
Pages: 246
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon

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

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.

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About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Heather J. says

    The way you feel about Dumas is the way I feel about Jules Verne. 🙂 I'm hoping to read THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO at some point – it will be my first Dumas.

  2. This is probably really ignorant of me, but I didn't realize Dumas wrote anything other than Count of Monte Cristo (which I LOVED!!) and The Three Musketeers (I haven't read). This one sounds good… maybe one day I'll get to it, lol.

  3. It took me a month to get through Count and I hated almost every page of it. I tried to read The Black Tulip for this circuit but just couldn't get into it. Ended up dropping out…

  4. Karenlibrarian says

    I haven't read any Dumas but I will have to tackle him this summer — I have the latest translation of The Three Musketeers in hc and I haven't touched it! I'll have to add The Black Tulip to my list also, it sounds really interesting. A few years ago I read another book about the Dutch tulip craze that I really liked. It's called Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach.

  5. Very interesting review of a book that I have not read-I will be posting on Dumas' George for the classics circuit-I read the Count of Monte Cristo at about age 12 or so-it must have been an abridged version-

  6. This is why I love the Classics Circuits – it makes me move authors from my "someday, perhaps" list to "MUST READ ASAP". It's too bad about the class thing, though :\

  7. I also am a MEGA Alexandre Dumas fangirl. I want him to come back and be MY writer boyfriend!
    Even though I also have only read the Counte of Monte Cristo and the Black Tulip (I felt pretty much exactly the same way about this book as you did – and I do remember the socioeconomic class thing being slightly weird). And I have been meaning to make time to read everything else he ever wrote. I've really got to get on that!

  8. Kelly McDermott-Bay says

    Thanks for the review. I will have to check this book out.
    Kelly Bookend Diaries


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