The Tulip Eaters
By: Antoinette van Heugten
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
It’s the stuff of nightmares: Nora de Jong returns home from work one ordinary day to find her mother has been murdered. Her infant daughter is missing. And the only clue is the body of an unknown man on the living-room floor, clutching a Luger in his cold, dead hand.
Frantic to find Rose, Nora puts aside her grief and frustration to start her own search. But the contents of a locked metal box she finds in her parents’ attic leave her with as many questions as answers—and suggest the killer was not a stranger. Saving her daughter means delving deeper into her family’s darkest history, leading Nora half a world away to Amsterdam, where her own unsettled past and memories of painful heartbreak rush back to haunt her.
As Nora feverishly pieces together the truth from an old family diary, she’s drawn back to a city under Nazi occupation, where her mother’s alliances may have long ago sealed her own–and Rose’s—fate.
This book has been on the want-to-read list for a very long time, followed by a not-as-lengthy stint on my to-read pile. November was a pretty busy month and I was in the mood for a thriller to read in the meantime, keep my mind sane xD Contains spoilers to some plot points ahead!
I thought the mystery and historical aspect of this novel was interesting and kept my attention throughout the story. What really happened to Abram and how was Hans involved? What really happened to Anneke during the war and that she kept a secret? Will Nora get Rose back and why do her kidnappers continue to hold on to her even as they know that Nora is on their tail? The backstory and the information about the Netherlands during the Second World War was very informative as I didn’t know too much about it. I also appreciated the use of the Dutch language sprinkled throughout the novel; it gives a sense of place to the novel. The sense of urgency in getting Rose back and finding out what really happened to Anneke back then kept the story going even through the unsteady parts, picking up especially in the latter half of the novel.
I did however have a couple quibbles while reading it. I found the story to be a little too melodramatic at times and the pacing uneven. For example, Nico and Nora’s reunion went from wariness and sharpness to love within the span of a few chapters. There were a lot of issues on the table between them that they needed to work out and I would’ve appreciated a few more chapters of them working through these feelings and issues and getting back together later on. There were also instances where the story was not pausible, such as Ariel’s convenient escape back to Amsterdam with a baby in tow. Not to mention the police seemed pretty inept; they’re there, they’re doing their best, but the characters either don’t bother going to them or they ignore them completely.
My biggest quibble however was with the characters. I completely empathise with Nora’s situation–her desire to find out what happened to her daughter, her frustration with the search as time ticks onward–but she’s in a constant state of frantic-ness–constantly pacing, freaking out at people, not listeing to people who provide reasonable explanations or suggestions–that I was getting pretty frustrated and frazzled with her scenes; girl could use an ativan. Amarisa’s experiences during the war was horrible, but it’s hard to feel for her when she’s acting like a complete caricature of a villaness throughout the novel. Same goes with Ariel–I felt bad for him and his wife Leah as they slowly come to realise what was really happening and how bad they felt for their role in matters, but sometimes their hesitancy in making the right decision was also frustrating.
The Tulip Eaters was a promising read, but it has its issues that are difficult to ignore. I love the title as it was one of the things that first drew me to the book, but I found it didn’t factor in as much as I thought it would. I was teetering between a 2 and a 3 here–3 for the historical information about the Netherlands in the 1940s, but 2 for the story–hence the resulting rating.