97. THE ANATOMY LESSON, BY NINA SIEGAL
Recommended by Nina. She’s an art student who has a lot of interest in the history of famous paintings. After she recommended it to me, she was infuriated to discover this was the fictional, and not just fictionalized, story. I decided to read it anyway, since I’m not as hung up on true historical facts as she is…
Synopsis: The fictional backstory to Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, starring Aris Kindt, an unfortunate boy with a tragic story who could never get a break, and who also had been Rembrandt’s neighbor in their childhood, as the body.
Overall enjoyment: It was nice. Not one of the best books I’ve ever read, but not one of the worst, either.
Plot: The plot really isn’t the most important thing here. She’s mostly trying to paint a picture herself, of the particular moment when this painting was made. I’ll admit that there wasn’t a lot of engagement for me. There is an attempt at suspense with Flora’s story, and her wanting to save him/get his body, but that’s mostly ruined because you know from the start that she will fail.
Characters: They are mostly well constructed. Flora’s character, though, which I was hoping would be a good one, was too much of a stereotypical angelic woman. I do like that there are no evil characters, just a few people who can’t be bothered to care about people they don’t know.
World/setting: This was probably the best part of the book. The portrayal of the time and place was vivid and colorful, even in its repression and puritanism.
Writing style: The whole book is told in first person, but the narrating character changes from chapter to chapter (sometimes within chapter too). The problem I had here is that they all sound like the same person talking, not like different people at all. She uses some very few markers on each different character (like having Flora say “were” every time she means “was”) but those were so few and incongruent (Flora would use it in very complex and refined phrases; that would be the only grammatical error she would make) they seemed gimmicky and fake. It honestly would have been better to just have them all talk the exact same way.
Representation: Quite poor, as you would expect.
Political correctness: I did not like Flora’s character. I had very high hopes for her, and she turned out to be a stereotype. It’s even worse because Flora is the only female character (if you don’t count Tulp’s wife, but she’s even more stereotypical than Flora).
Up next: Three Princes, by Ramona Wheeler