In this concluding volume of a historical fiction trilogy set in the 1600s, a farm boy with a remarkable memory pursues a new life in Amsterdam while searching for a girl he encountered as a child.
When he was small, Dirck Becker spent a memorable afternoon with an orphaned Gypsy girl. Now in his late teens, Dirck is determined to leave the farm where he grew up and use his rare gift—the ability to remember meticulous details—to find his fortune in Amsterdam and hopefully locate this fascinating orphan girl too. The girl is Nelleke, adopted by a wealthy Amsterdam merchant family, who devotes her days to obsessively studying insects and recording her detailed observations in notebooks. Disappointed in the opportunities afforded to women in the Dutch Republic, Nelleke plans to journey across the ocean to New Amsterdam despite knowing her parents will disapprove. Meanwhile, Dirck worries that his talent for remembering everything from the rules of chess to the parts of a ship will lead others around him to distrust him. These two ambitious young people are destined to meet again—but when it finally happens, their reunion isn’t what Dirck imagined. This installment (following The New Worlds of Isabela Calderón, 2014) guides readers to an earlier era through the sweet smell of the pannekoeken hawked by street vendors on the Dam and the cries of the city’s night watchmen that cut through the dark; readers will likely feel as though they are roaming the streets alongside the characters. But, as in the first two volumes of the Amsterdam Trilogy, the weak link remains Nelleke. With her exotic beauty, unbridled intelligence, and ability to charm everyone she meets through her eccentric enthusiasm, Nelleke veers too far into Manic Pixie Dream Girl territory to be believable. Fortunately, in this volume White (Autumns of Our Joy, 2015, etc.) actually reveals flaws in Nelleke’s character, making her both more realistic and more tolerable. The book ties up loose ends for all of the characters in the trilogy, both major and minor, and should leave readers feeling fulfilled.
A satisfying trip back in time takes readers to the Dutch Republic in the 17th century.