This book disappointed me. Now don’t get me wrong, it was still entertaining – but, sadly, disappointing. It was imaginative, but flighty. I couldn’t put it down, yet at times I wanted to do nothing but that. I think I had my hopes too high for this book. I had heard so much, and I truly believe it was simply too over-hyped.
The novel starts off with a young girl of 18, Petronella, – or Nella, as she prefers to be called – and her arrival in Amsterdam to begin her new life married Johannes, a merchant trader. This presented the first problem for me: her age. Although I know how mature women can be at the age of eighteen, Nella simply seemed too mature. She had the airs of a woman quite a few years her senior, and it simply seemed a bit too much. She did have quite a lot of naiveties, which was more realistic, but it didn’t quite match up to her supposed age. Her sophistication seemed to go beyond her years, especially for having grown in a rather average setting before moving to Amsterdam.
But alas, moving on. I truly enjoyed Burton’s writing. She has a wonderful grasp on using language to capture emotions and set up a scene. While I didn't necessarily enjoy the way in which she always used this language, which I will get to momentarily, I really do think Burton is a wonderful wordsmith, who truly is a natural and gifted writer. I immensely enjoyed her descriptions and language during moments of crises; it was a very simplistic style, yet it conveyed so much.
However, this brings me to my second issue: confusion. Although I loved the way in which Burton wrote and styled her story, I found it to be a bit confusing at times as far as plot was concerned. I found myself unsure of what was happening at times, largely due to the fact that her writing style does not always provide enough description or information about a scene or event that is occurring. Similarly, her writing style is one that leaves a lot up to the reader to deduce, and sometimes it is not as obvious as one would think.
Now, the characters. It was a fun cast of characters, each with their own extremely distinct personalities. However, I must say that they tended to be somewhat clichéd. Besides Nella and Johannes' sister, Marin, they weren't overly multi-dimensional or dynamic, as we did not see many sides to some of them. I suppose many people wouldn't see this as a flaw, but character development can truly make or break a novel, and this novel was rather lacking.
Also, there is one aspect of the book that is left unexplained. And I must say, it kills me a little bit. There are times when authors can perfectly execute an “unexplained” or “open to interpretation” ending, but this was not quite one of them.
Overall, I would recommend this book, but not to someone who is overly picky about their books. It is an enjoyable read, and definitely interesting. As annoyed as I would become with this book at times, I found myself unable to put it down; I just had to know what would keep happening to this unfortunate group of people!