Review: Rembrandt’s Whore

1841953229-L.jpg

How do I go from Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana to Rembrandt’s Whore?  What can I say, my tastes are ecclectic. 

Though the title of Rembrandt’s Whore intrigued me, I chose this book because I love the marriage of the arts; that is, I love books about art and music, or music about art, or art inspired by music, etc… This novel was inspired by Rembrandt’s paintings of Hendrickje Stoffels–his servant, turned lover, turned common-law wife.  Hendrickje is the narrator, and she details how their love progressed as Rembrandt’s reputation deteriorated.  It is set against the plague-ridden landscape of seventeenth century Amsterdam, and Sylvie Matton gives the reader a clear picture of society at the time.

Unless you are a Rembrandt scholar, I would not recommend this book.  I felt like I was outside, looking at paintings through a foggy window.  Matton did not bridge the gap between me, a reader with very limited prior knowledge of Rembrandt, and the story she wanted to tell.  I have no doubt that her research was impeccable and her insight and historical detail surrounding the paintings we see Rembrandt completing during the novel were accurrate, but she couldn’t take my hand and bring me to her point of reference. 

The novel was compared to Tracy Chevalier’s Girl With a Pearl Earring, but unlike Matton, Chevalier was able to make Vermeer’s painting (which I was equally unfamiliar with before reading her novel) relavent to me.  Without obvious backstory or a history text, Chevalier was able to weave enough detail about the artist into the prose to bring me up to speed.

I did like how Matton interlaced the prayers of the Roman Catholic mass into the text to demonstrate the (ironic) piety of Hendrickje at odds with her lifestyle and the judgement of society, but it wasn’t enough to keep me running back to the book for more.

All that said, the novel was a translation from the original French version.  Had I read the book in its native tongue, I wonder if it would have struck me in a different way. 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s