I just finished reading The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas, and I have some incongruous feelings about it. But first, I’ll give you a quick idea of what the book was about:
This novel begins with the execution of the Grand Pensionary of Germany, Johan de Witt, and his brother Cornelius, in 1672. The two men are lynched in front of a thrilled crowd, and Dumas paints this remarkably vivid description of the Dutch people’s joy over the death of these two men.
Meanwhile, in Haarlem, in the Netherlands, the president of the Horticultural Society offers a prize of 100,00 franks 💰 to whoever can cultivate a black tulip. A young man named Cornelius van Baerle 👨, the nephew of the unfortunate de Witts, is an avid tulip tender. Not only is Cornelius wealthy, but he is also well liked by everybody, and has had many successes in the world of tulip cultivation in the past. His neighbor, on the other hand, another tulip-fancier named Isaac Boxtel, is a relatively impecunious man who envies Cornelius’ success, esteem, and wealth. Isaac spends his days agonizing over his neighbor’s success and even attempts to sabotage his neighbor’s efforts in producing the black tulip. Cornelius has set his mind on cultivating the first black tulip, and diligently working day and night, he thinks he has discovered the prize winning shoot. Then Isaac 😡, who has finally come up with the perfect plan with which he can ruin Cornelius’ life, sets his ruse into action. His plan is to have Cornelius convicted for treason and then to sneak into Cornelius’ store room to steal his prized shoots. Cornelius does indeed end up in prison, but he has his shoots with him. Here, he meets Rosa 👩, the prison master’s daughter, and the two fall in love. ❤️
I was excited to read The Black Tulip due to the immense joy I received from readingThe Count of Monte Cristo. 📖 I dug into this novel hoping to find the same level of complexity and adventure, and I did – for the first fifty pages. I thought the novel would tell a story similar to that of Edmond Dantès…but it didn’t. I wish I had a few days to write an analytical essay comparing the two novels, but I don’t have time right now (thank you, college application essays!) so I’m going to have to settle for a good old list.
- Though the two books start off in a similar manner, they go down two very different paths. In The Count of Monte Cristo, an innocent man is convicted of an extremely culpable crime and he finds a way out and goes on to do remarkable things. In The Black Tulip, an innocent man is convicted of an extremely culpable crime, doesn’t escape for a very long time, and can’t be associated with very many extraordinary feats.
- Cornelius van Baerle does a very bad job of being the main character, unlike Edmond Dantès. Rosa is much more of a protagonist. She is the one to cultivate the black tulip – Cornelius only instructs her – and she has to deal with the cunning Isaac and a tempestuous father. Cornelius has a very condescending attitude towards her, which honestly is to be expected due to the historical context of this book, but it still bothered me because Rosa was doing all the work while he cried in his prison cell! (To be fair, he did try to grow the flower himself, but he was still a little too whiny to pass my judgement.) 😕
- The Black Tulip is not full of surprising twists and dramatic scenes. I was able to predict almost every single important moment, and because of this, my reading experience wasn’t great.
If I were to connect this novel to a color, it would be a dirty gray. The beginning chapters promised an intriguing plot and storyline and then very briskly threw that promise out the window. The events detailed in this novel were so predictable, and to be honest, I had to force myself to finish it.
Would I recommend The Black Tulip to any of my friends? Maybe. If you’re looking for a very relaxing, low-maintenance (meaning you can fall asleep in the middle, accidentally re-open the book to about ten pages farther than where you stopped and still understand what’s going on) novel, The Black Tulip would be perfect for you. But if you’ve never read any of Dumas’ works, I’d tell you to stay away from this. Dumas is an exceptional writer capable of contriving a masterpiece such as The Count of Monte Cristo, and unfortunately, The Black Tulip shows him to be more of a sub-par romantic writer.
If you have read The Black Tulip and disagree with my criticism, let me know in the comments! I don’t know anybody who has read this novel and I would really love to hear some other opinions on it! If you have read this book, still let me know so that we can pick it apart together…I feel as though there is more to this story than I have been able to pluck out, and maybe my assessment is a little too shallow.
Happy Day! 🌷