For those of you that love historical fiction, this may be a book for you. I’m personally not a huge historical fiction fan, and I generally hold everything up to a few favourites I’ve read in the past. Not fair? You’re right, it isn’t but unfortunately I can’t help it!
The Anatomy Lesson is set in Holland in the 1600’s. It follows several characters around the time in which Rembrandt was commissioned to paint one of his most famous pieces: The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulpe. Each of the characters in the story all have something to do with, or influence the events around this painting. The general premise of this book is interesting and it would have made a really good novel. However, in my opinion, there were too many flaws that didn’t allow me to enjoy it as much as I should have.
First, let’s talk about the structure. The story is initially divided into two narratives. One set in 17th century Holland, and the in modern day Holland. The latter narrative revolves around an art historian who is examining the painting and trying to repair it back to its former glory. To me, this narrative really wasn’t necessary. It did not add anything to the plot.
The other thing that bothered me (and it might not bother others), was the constant change of tense and personal narrative. One minute someone is speaking in 1st person and the next 3rd person. I’m sure there was a literary/personal reason for this, but it just grated on me.
This is a short review, because as you can probably tell, I didn’t really enjoy it. However, if you enjoy historical fiction, and want something different than the usual 16th century royal family sagas, then give this one a go, and form your own opinion. There is definitely potential…