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Review: The Lady Tree, by Christie Dickason

Pages: 535

Original date of publication: 1993

My edition: 1999 (Harper Collins)

Why I decided to read: I read two of Christie Dickason’s other novels last year and was intrigued by the subject matter of this one.

How I acquired my copy: Foyles Bookshop, London, September 2009

It’s 1636, and Amsterdam is in a speculating frenzy—over tulips. John Nightingale is an English naturalist with a Past who is hired to speculate in the tulip trade by the very person he’s trying to run away from. It’s a game that’s not simply a game to many, and John often finds himself fearing for his own life. Added on top of that is the fact that he finds himself attracted to both the sister of an investor and his own cousin’s wife, and John indeed is in a bind.

This is the third book by Christie Dickason that I’ve read, and I’ve noticed that she has an unusual writing style—which can sometimes help her, sometimes harm. I’m not quite sure why the book is titled The Lady Tree, considering the tree in question has so little to do with the plot. Dickason has definitely done her research on the period, but I felt that 17th century Amsterdam pales in comparison to her depictions of England—when, in fact, it should be the other way around. Still, I was engaged by the author’s descriptions of the tulip trading business (which still goes a bit over my head, I’m afraid, despite having studied it in a course for college!).

Dickason is also skilled at character development, though I felt that Harry’s actions at the end of the book weren’t totally believable. Still, this is a very enjoyable piece of fiction. In comparison to other “Tulipmania” novels that I’ve read, this one is by far the best.


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