This is my all time favourite book. I don’t think I can quite articulate just how brilliant I think it is, but I’ll have a go!
Nella- Nella is a 17 year old girl and I don’t think I have ever identified more with a character. She is married off to a wealthy merchant, Johannes, and the book follows her journey from being a small town farm girl, to a wife who is feuding with her husbands sister. She is adamant to prove her abilities as a wife. This, however is ruined by the fact that Johannes is a homosexual. What I loved most about this character is feeling her go through different phases of emotions. It seemed very true to life, and I personally felt very familiar with these emotions. She started out with intense disbelief, which then evolved in to anger, spite, acceptance etc. For a woman in 1686 she is certainly very head strong and independent, and if you can’t identify with her I think you will at least be able to admire her courage. What I love most about this character is her impeccable ability for compassion towards Marin and Johannes towards the end of the book. I personally, would have been beyond devastated, utterly crushed after seeing Johannes and Jack. But, when Johannes is taken prisoner and facing hanging, as a reader you truly feel the love and respect she has for him.
Marin- I really enjoyed the character of Marin, everyone enjoys a good antagonist right? She quite reminds me of Cruella Deville, and adds a really dark, sombre atmosphere to the book. While she is incredibly rude and belittling towards Nella, I found it very had to dislike the character because of her loyalty towards Johannes. Also, when it unravelled that she was pregnant (WITH OTTO) I literally slapped myself in the face and was gawping at my page. The thing I loved most was her delivery of the baby. Such wonderful descriptions, but beware! At times they are incredibly vulgar. Seeing Marin open up to Nella here (and trust her) really made me warm to her. I personally think she is a very complex character, but perhaps a very “love her or hate her” character.
Johannes- I. LOVE. HIM. Despite his infidelity, he is such an easy character to sympathise with. Mainly, because he can see the harm that he is doing to Nella. He is very aware of how much she wants to be the “perfect wife”, but he can’t sacrifice who he truly is. And I love that. To me, he seems the epitome of strength. Throughout he is described as tall, almost heroic, and this contrasts greatly from when he is imprisoned. He basically deteriorates, and becomes small, bony and under weight. Despite his physical appearance, when put in front of the jury he is (I think) at his peak, in terms of strength. While he is portrayed as a love interest, I feel nothing but paternalism for him, and he is truly a spectacular, warm character. The worst part for me, is that he died in the end. I so desperately wanted it to resolve in to a happy ending, but alas, it did not. I felt that this really highlighted the fact that he’s quite a tragic hero, and his death was so memorable because of this.
Jack- OH MY FRICKEN GOD. I READ THIS BOOK ABOUT 2 MONTHS AGO AND I’M STILL MAD AT JACK. I personally would’ve liked a little more character development, but I still got the sense that he is utterly evil. Having him come to the door to give Nella her parcel was such a punch in the face later on in the novel when she sees him pleasuring Johannes. At that point, I literally sat on my bed for a good 5 minutes just unable to do anything. ugh. SOO GOOD. Usually, I’m able to sympathise with even the most cruel of characters, but Jack… Nope. After killing the dogs and testifying against Johannes I really, really despised him. But, then again, such a wonderful character. I think if an author can make you detest a character, they’re doing something right.
I absolutely adored the book being set in 1686 Amsterdam. with the colourful descriptions I really felt I had been transported in to their house. For example, I thought the winding stair case was a lovely touch. Personally, I think the descriptions were flawless, I had a hard time trying to get back in to the real world when I had to put the book down.
LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. I can’t explain how much I utterly love it. The enticing characters, paired with the ambiance makes for a truly splendid read. Also, I bought it for £3.75, and I would honestly pay around £20 for such a wonderful story.