Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas

Our book club chose this "old school" book. Alexandre Dumas is most famous for having written The Three Musketeers. This book is much shorter than that one.

It's set in Holland, and the title is referring to an actual flower. The government offered a large prize to anyone who could produce a truly black tulip, and the quest to get that prize is central to the plot.

The beginning of the book is quite exciting. Two men are fleeing for their lives from a mob who thinks they are traitors and liars. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure what the two men did but some papers they had hidden with a friend led us into the actual story. That friend, Cornelius Van Baerle (Dutch enough for you?), is the main character.

Cornelius has not read the hidden papers, and has actually almost forgotten them. He took on a quiet life, devoting himself to gardening and breeding tulips, trying to produce that pure black tulip. Because of the papers he is arrested and put in jail. In prison he falls in love with the guard's daughter and entrusts her with the 3 bulbs that he is sure will produce a black tulip. His fiendish neighbor, though, is watching and determined to steal the bulb. He does, but his evil plans are foiled in the end.

This is a good story. It's a little old fashioned but not enough to bother you. The story moves along like a rollicking movie. I felt like I could see the characters, scenes, landscape and action in my mind. According to Wikipedia, it has been made into a movie and BBC miniseries. It'd be fun to see a movie version.

I'm glad to have read this. If you want a good, historical adventure, I recommend The Black Tulip.