Ruth's Reviews > The Orphanmaster

The Orphanmaster by Jean Zimmerman
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Every now and then I read a book that just takes my breath away. It feels like the author wrote the book just for me, and I just can't put it down. This one, which I won through the goodreads' first reads (yeah!) giveaways was just that. It was just so brilliant that I'm really struggling how to put it into words.

It is set in a period of history about which very little is written in historical fiction - early New York history, when it was still a tenuous colony of intrepid Dutch men and women, given rein to do what they needed to in order to succeed. The imperative of a successful colony meant that women had far more rights than in their homeland at the time, or for some centuries afterwards, and also that one hard man, Peter Stuyvesant is judge, jury and executioner overseeing the daily lives of the colonists and maintaining law and order.

It is also time of turmoil across the Atlantic. Europe is struggling to achieve normality, prompted by the return of Charles II, a highly intelligent, charismatic, courageous and flawed man, to the throne in England, after the bloody and savage Civil War, and silently, the men that put his father to death are being hunted down and murdered. Catherine the Great is dragging Russia into Europe, and in France the Sun King, Louis XIV, has ascended the throne he'll occupy for a record 72 years. The Netherlands itself was celebrating after winning independence from Spain after an 80 year struggle, and was firmly in its Golden Age.

That's the incredible backdrop to this story. So, how do we go from that, through amazingly detailed, and never tedious, descriptions of daily life in the New Amsterdam colony, to the story of a particularly gruesome set of murders of children? Oh, and all the while, write a really compelling romance?

I'm not sure how the author does it, but she does! There are so many characters, all flawed, all harboring secrets, and yet, none of them are simple black and white, evil or good, but a mixed up, confusing grey sludge. Even the main hero (there are several heroes) is a study in what happens when you lose your moral compass, and one of the secondary heroes, well, even now, I don't know what to really think of him - his nature and beliefs are so far removed from my own, that I can't even bring myself to judge him.

So, 5 stars, absolutely brilliant, all-time-favorite (and even has a beautiful cover), and I really, really hope this author writes more historical fiction like this.
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Reading Progress

May 10, 2012 – Shelved
May 25, 2012 – Started Reading
May 25, 2012 – Shelved as: covers-that-are-gorgeous
May 25, 2012 – Shelved as: goodreads_firsts
May 25, 2012 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
May 25, 2012 – Shelved as: colonial
May 25, 2012 – Shelved as: mystery-thriller-spies-suspense
May 28, 2012 – Finished Reading
June 4, 2012 – Shelved as: birds-with-balls
June 4, 2012 – Shelved as: historical-romance
June 4, 2012 – Shelved as: stuart-pre-regency
June 4, 2012 – Shelved as: all-time-favorites

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