Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

March Books 39) The Embarrassment of Riches

39) The Embarrassment of Riches: an interpretation of Dutch culture in the golden age, by Simon Schama

A massive huge book this, Schama's attempt to get inside the heads of the Dutch in the last sixteenth and early to mid seventeenth centuries. He is very convincing on the impact of natural as well as political/military disasters, on the formation of Dutch identity after the formation of the state, on the role of religion and the family, and the whole thing is beautifully illustrated with paintings and woodcuts from the period. (I was particularly grabbed by Schama's enthusiasm for Jan Steen.)

However, I could have done with a bit more of the historical outline - the dramatic events of 1650 are actually better described by Russell Shorto, and it is assumed the reader knows all about William the Silent - and the only two maps provided are a contemporary small woodcut of the Netherlands and an illegible attempt to show where the brothels of Amsterdam were located. If you're only interested in the culture and not in the context, this would be a very satisfying book; but I like a little more framework to hang the pictures from.
Tags: bookblog 2008, history, world: netherlands

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