Although I was a bit sceptical at first, I really did enjoy reading this YA novel about Cornelia van Rijn.
There are two story lines going on, in between the first and last chapter which take place after Rembrandt's death. You can easily recognize which story line is which as one is in italics and one is in roman. We get to know Cornelia as a kid, and the story is told by using Rembrandt's paintings, both from that period and earlier. In the other story line we get to know Cornelia as a young teen, falling in love for the first time. We get sucked in her world of books, her cat Tijger (dutch for Tiger) the growing ducklings in the canal and sounds of the peacocks across it, the love for her brother, her posing for "The Yewish Bride", the struggle to make ends meet, the common fear for the pest and the tolling of the death bells.
I love how the book really gives you a sense of daily life in 17th century Amsterdam, and who can resist a story of young love set in a place such as that? And of course, Rembrandt makes a wonderful and amusing subject for a book, as does his family life.
I did have some concerns though, most of all with the use of dutch words, being dutch myself. I'll hide them as a spoiler, not because I think they spoil the plot, but because they spoil my positive review. Feel free to read my rant at your own risk: (view spoiler)[
-At the end of the first chapter Cornelia says she is taking us back to her earliest memory, when she was 4. But in the next chapter she is not 4, but 13! And in the one after that she is 5! And she does not get any younger after that. This got me confused all through the first chapters. Am I juts stupid, or is this a mistake?
-No matter how lovely a story the two invented romances are I always find it a shame if stories about women who had an intersting life in any case are deemed in need of spicing up with an (additional) love interest. Plus I just don't buy the story of Hendrickjes love affair prior to Rembrandt. The "normal" story is far, far more plausible, plus, poor Geertje does not fit in this version (and is thus left out)
-the apparently random use of dutch words (for the record: I am dutch) "Some" examples: Why use the dutch words "mijnheer" and "mevrouw" (sir and mrs) and use the english words miss (dutch; juffrouw) and stadtholder (dutch; stadhouder.) Why leave most names of streets and landmarks in Dutch but translate some (Prince's Canal must be Prinsengracht... and it took me an awful lot of Googling until I figured out what the "New Maze Park" was! - "Den nieuwen en vermaeckelijcken dool-hof, staende op de Roose-Graght, by de derde brugh" A very intersting piece of Amsterdam history I had no prior knowledge of, so I have to thank the author for this I guess. But how is someone not dutch ever to find more info on this?) I find the use of the word "clompen" odd. It is probably old fashioned spelling but it is hard to find info on it, so just sticking the he modern spelling "klompen" would be easier. And "buchts"? what the hell is that supposed to mean? In the story it sounds like something you could want to own, but the only meaning I can find for it is "junk", in a dialect not spoken in Amsterdam. I don't see a point of adding it in a book if you're not going to explain what it is and if even a dutch person is not able to Google it. If it were used in a similar novel written in dutch, a list of explanations to the old fashioned words whould have been added in the back. And why are people sometimes lovingly called "schaapje" (dutch for "little sheep") but is the main character called english nicknames instead? Why are both the dutch "hallo" and the english "hello" used? And possibly my favorite; why is "de noen" always called "de noen" and never just "noen"? "De" means "the" so saying "her de noen" means "her the middle of the day" and "the de noen" means "the the middle of the day" which is just silly.... (hide spoiler)]