The Anatomy Lesson

The Anatomy Lesson

In 1632 serial thief, Adriaen Adriaenszoon (known as Aris Kindt), was sentenced to death by hanging in Amsterdam. The Anatomy Lesson is based on the events that take place on the day of his death and dissection as depicted in Rembrandt'Ž“s famous painting, Ž•The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes TulpŽ“, an artwork commissioned by the Amsterdam Surgeons' Guild. This second novel from American writer, Nina Siegal, is contrived from historical records and coloured by prose. The narrative chronicles Kindt_Ž“s life, the lives of the individuals laying claim to the dead man_Ž“s body: Dr Tulp (the anatomist) Flora (the woman pregnant with his child) Rembrandt (artist) Jan Fetchet (curio collector and acquirer of medical cadavers) and Kindt himself (both alive and dead). Siegal has obviously spent copious time researching the subject matter. This historic authenticity of The Anatomy Lesson makes it easy for the reader to conjure up the people, places and events described in the narrative. Her descriptions of the cold, greyness of the Dutch winter are commendable. The tale rumbles gently along. At times it reads more as a play than a novel. Characters enter the stage and present a short monologue before exiting. The audience enjoy the performance, while anticipating the moment when the denouement reels the characters and story together into a satisfying conclusion. Needless the say, no more can be added without giving away the end of the book. Some readers may feel that the author's concentration on detail is pedantic and slows the flow of the narrative and the pace is slowed by the adoption of numerous characters narrating the story. Chapter headings give no clue to the identity of the narrator, leaving it to the reader to deduce from whose perspective the story is being told. Adding to this, sometimes confusing, mix is the occasional interruption by a present-day conservator employed to restore the painting (notably easier to identify due to a change in font). This literary style demands full reader concentration. Despite these niggles, The Anatomy Lesson is an enjoyable read. It provides the reader with an historical insight into a specific time period in the Netherlands, and an interpretation of the background story behind one of the most renowned paintings of the Golden Age, which now hangs at Mauritshuis in The Hague. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >



Invading Holland

Invading Holland

The adventures of an accident-prone English man who arrived in the Netherlands in 2001 for a six month stay. More >



Amsterdive

Amsterdive

Amsterdam based actress invites you to dive with her into the cultural life of the city. More >


24 Oranges

24 Oranges

Dutch things pressed for your pleasure: oddball Dutch news and photographs. More >


Kristen in Clogland

Kristen in Clogland

'Kristen in Clogland' is a blog about an Aussie discovering the Netherlands and adjusting to life in another country More >



I love Noord

I love Noord

North Amsterdam is described as the Brooklyn of the Dutch capital. If you want to know why, read this blog. More >


A Wanderlust For Life

A Wanderlust For Life

An American expat blogging about life in Amsterdam while traveling around the country and throughout Europe. More >



Holland Cycling

Holland Cycling

Explore the Netherlands the Dutch way - by bicycle. Includes where to go, planning your trip, tips and info. More >




A Dictionary of Dutchness

The Dutch language can puzzle at the best of times but throw in an acronym or abbreviation and you're suddenly faced with a riddle, wrapped in a mystery and deep-fried in breadcrumbs. What hope have we uninitiated English speakers got if we can't tell the difference between a BOB and a TSB? Enter A Dictionary of Dutchness. All those quirky Dutchisms that have caught us off guard, drawn blank faces and LOL'd (laughed at loud) at our expense, have been meticulously rounded up by the editors at DutchNews.nl and compiled into a indispensable 400-word paperback that's as entertaining as it is digestible. The Dutch language demystified, brilliant. It's not just newcomers to the Netherlands who'll find a friend in this unofficial survival guide. What Dutch person wouldn't care to know what the FNV (trade union federation) stood for or if the CBP is doing what they're paid to do (protect data)? Some acronyms make perfect sense. Why struggle through Eerste Hulp Bij OngelukkenŽ and risk passing out - when EHBO (first-aid kit) just trips off the tongue? Then there's BOB. Poor BOB. He's that reliable friend who sticks to one beer so he can drive everyone home after a night out. And BTW, wouldn't it be nice to know how big your Hollandse Nieuwe were this year? (That's the mid-May catch of young herring). That just leaves us with GVB, a word that suffers from a split personality, standing for both a golf proficiency certificate and the municipal transport authorities. The list goes on and on, but you'll easily find yourself going along with it. I certainly did! A Dictionary of Dutchness is a great addition to anybody's bookshelf. Short and sweet, IYKWIM (if you know what I mean). Out of print Iamsterdam.com  More >


Sunshine Soup

The life of an expat wife in a far-flung destination has all the classic ingredients for a jolly good chick-lit novel and who better to pen the story than someone who'Ž“s lived the life and turned it into an art form? Sunshine Soup: Nourishing the Global Soul, is the first foray into fiction for renowned author, publisher and Expat Entrepreneur Jo Parfitt, and tells the story of a group of friends (and trailing spouses) living in Dubai in 2008. Maya leaves behind a successful catering business to follow her husband'Ž“s career to the Middle East and quickly discovers that no amount of shopping and manicures can replace her life-long passion for cooking, and losing the professional identity she has worked so hard to achieve. Even domestic salvation in the form of Annie the housemaid eats away at Maya'Ž“s self-esteem as she begins to feel usurped in the very place she has always found sanctuary and fulfilment her kitchen. But before long Maya finds kindred spirits in other expat wives and soon discovers new and exciting opportunities in unexpected quarters in a storyline that trots along at a satisfying pace. If you'Ž“re a fan of this genre then Sunshine Soup will certainly gratify, and typically with any of Jo Parfitt'Ž“s offerings, you get more than just a book and here she'Ž“s included twenty recipes at the end in a nice nod to the main character, Maya (the anchovy and lemon dip incidentally, is quite delicious!). Sunshine Soup is a fictional account of the realities of life for many women living overseas, but ultimately it'Ž“s a tale of friendship, culture shock, grief and temptation against an exotic backdrop with a cast of characters who will resonate with expat women everywhere. Buy this book Shelley Antscherl  More >


Amsterdam, a metropolitan village

Amsterdam, a city with grit that embraces you, a city with the appeal of a metropolis and the flair of a Dutch village. This is a gorgeous photo book of Amsterdam. Buy this book  More >


How to be Orange

How to be Orange, offers an insightful look at Dutch culture by social commentator and comedian, Greg Shapiro. Shapiro's extensive knowledge of Dutch culture and politics has been accrued over twenty years of living and working in the Netherlands. His cultural immersion has involved marriage to a Dutch woman and parenting first generation Dutch children, while living in Amsterdam and forging a durable career within the local art scene. In the Netherlands, Shapiro is the immigrant people laugh at. He happily accepts this fate, not just because it is how he makes his living, but because it indicates that his efforts at inburgering have been a success. Shapiro is an American, obvious in many ways including numerous comparisons of the Netherlands to the US throughout the book. His birth culture is the basis for what formulates his views about his adopted land. An example is chapter 22 on Dutch service, renowned for being non-existent if you are lucky, and terrible if your luck is running short. Shapiro rates service in North America as sitting on the other end of the hospitality scale - something akin to being downright annoying due to desire of earnest staff to increase their tips by attentive servitude. Stage show The book is the offspring of the author's stage show, and hence the material has been tried and tested in terms of relevance to the audience/reader experience. Newcomers to the Netherlands will identify with topics like dealing with government bureaucracies that don't make sense acquiring a cheap, used bike from unscrupulous sources feeling insulted by Dutch honesty and the irrational love of Zwarte Piet in a land that is otherwise unable to gracefully accept racial differences into its mix. Difficult topics are tackled with facts, sharp insights and often hilarious, personal anecdotes. Presented in two parts, part one contains 24 short chapters interspersed with caricature illustrations of Shapiro by Floor de Goede, and photos of Dutch things that become laughable in translation. Exam Part Two is the Assimilation Exam, a list of questions and answers used in the National Inburgering Test, a test of Dutch cultural understanding for foreigners. This second part emphasizes the idiosyncrasies of Dutch culture that are difficult to understood even for the Dutch, yet can be found in the examination questions for newcomers. Again, Shapiro addresses the odd image the Dutch have of themselves, compared to how the world sees the Dutch. A good example is the multiple choice question about where Dutch people go on holidays (p235). The answer that is officially correct is: A) The Netherlands, yet Shapiro states that the true answer is actually: B) In France and Spain. Most Dutch people, and camping ground staff in France and Spain, would agree with Shapiro. How to be Orange is not an official guide book to Dutch culture, yet the inclusion of this book on the essential reading lists of cultural assimilation courses would save newcomers unnecessary frustration in understanding their host country. For the rest of us, the book is a compendium of humorous subjects presented with respect, wit and sarcasm by an American with a strong attachment to the people and culture of his adopted homeland. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >


A Short History of the Netherlands

The development of the Netherlands over the centuries has been a remarkable one. Situated at 'the end of Europe,' between land and water, its people have, for more than three thousand years, fought to make the best of a country unfavoured by nature. They have shaped it into one of the world's foremost economic powers but also, and even more importantly, into a society that prides itself on having reached a fair balance between material and social well-being. The history of this achievement is a fascinating one. Since time immemorial, it is the history of the struggle against the sea, of man seeking to dominate the forces of water. It is the history of the early medieval Dutch traders, who travelled all over Europe to sell their wares. It is the history of the activities ofthe world's first multinationals, the Dutch East and West India Companies, that spanned the entire globe. It is also the history of the loss of colonial empire and of the triumphant rebuilding of a mainly commercial economy into a mainly industrial one, whose activities, once again, span the globe. It is, of course, also the history of a culture to match, of commonsense and realism, of the wonderful works of art produced by the Dutch 'Golden Age' of the seventeenth century and of the many attainments of Dutch civilization in more recent years. For all those who are often amazed at the industry and achievementsof this small nation, the 'Short History of the Netherlands' offers a succinct historical tale that goes a long way to elucidate the country's past and, thus, explain its present. Buy this book    More >


How to Survive Holland

Published in 2007, Martijn de Rooi's How to Survive Holland aims to explain Dutch culture to readers unfamiliar with the Netherlands , including the history and population. The book is written from the perspective of a highly educated man who clearly loves his homeland, and hopes to educate the reader - identified as working on such misconceptions as the need to request a life buoy on arrival in the Netherlands as a safety measure against the rising waters. How to Survive Holland is a 175 page paperback expanded over twelve chapters covering topics like history, geography, food, and culture. The insight into the Dutch culture is valuable for the uninitiated and includes explanations beneficial to people wanting to emerge themselves into local society. Of note is the explanation of the Dutch liberal attitude of - equality for all, and tolerance of most things - as presented in chapter 4 'Abnormally Normal'. Criticisms of this book are based on the writing style. Many times thirty words are used when five would suffice. The result is that the reader is distracted by the style and intake of information is reduced. Being proud of one's own homeland can also reduce objectivity. Comparing the Vaals hill in the province of Limburg to Mount Everest, or the former Amsterdam City Hall building to the Taj Mahal or Roman Colosseum (pg72-73) may sound a little silly - and that is not the writer's intention. Finally, and of no fault to the author, in the six years since its publication, some information is outdated and now incorrect: like strippenkaart use on public transport, and Dutch places on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Buy this book  More >


Holland Handbook

Now in its 19th year, this richly illustrated handbook offers 256 full-color pages of essential information for the expatriate on all aspects of living and working in the Netherlands such as: career, fiscal issues, health care, housing, insurance, international education, registration and telecommunications. Buy this book  More >


Stuff Dutch People Like takes on food and mothers

The Stuff Dutch People Like empire has done some considerable expansion in 2016 with a look earlier this year at language and now a plunge into food and the world of motherhood. Author Colleen Geske, a Canadian by birth, has now turned her attention to celebrating Dutch parenting and asks herself 'why do Dutch mums have it all?'. It did not start out that way. 'Home births were not urban legends, as I had hoped, but a frightening reality,' she writes in the introduction. 'Could I actually give birth, let alone raise a family, in this country far away from the comforts and familiarities of home?' Colleen is now the proud mother of two children, both born in the Netherlands and both growing up into little Amsterdammers. The book Stuff Dutch Moms Like is based partly on her experiences, partly on heaps of facts and useful information, and partly on the experiences of others mothers, both Dutch and foreign. Dutch parenting, she states, has often been described as laid-back, relaxed and quite permissive. Not that she would argue with these observations, you understand, but that 'you could make the wrong assumption that this parenting style is without substance or reason'. Helicopter mums have yet to arrive in the Netherlands and freedom, independence and letting children be children are paramount. The style is light and informative - like chatting to a friend - and Colleen's enthusiasm so persuasive you might end up wishing you were having a baby yourself, just to test it all out. Buy this book   Stuff Dutch People Eat The fourth book in the Stuff Dutch People Like stable is a homage to the Dutch snackbar and dinner table. Complete with recipes for pea soup, grandmother's apple pie and even stroopwaffels, Stuff Dutch People Eat is a lavishly illustrated celebration of Dutch food. And yes, she does throw in recipes for roti and nasi goreng for good measure. Liberally sprinkled with humour and exclamation marks, Colleen is even positive about boerenkool and herring - which must mean she is a fully integrated Dutch cook. This is a great gift for a new arrival, a longer term resident or someone who has left the Netherlands and is still nostalgic for a bitterballen or olliebollen at New Year. Now they can make them themselves. Buy this book  More >


Holland Flowering

Holland Flowering – How the Dutch Flower Industry Conquered the World is a new book by Andrew Gebhardt and published by Amsterdam University Press (2014). As the title suggests, the book focuses on the Dutch flower industry, specifically FloraHolland, and the influence the industry has had both locally and internationally. Andrew Gebhardt is an American writer based in Amsterdam. With an obvious deep fascination for the flower industry, Gebhardt tackles the subject matter from all angles: including the anthropology of cut flowers, the early beginnings of the Dutch flower horticulture business and its growth into an international flower-selling business, and the effects on other countries and cultures resulting from the globalisation of the Dutch flower industry. FloraHolland Primarily, this book is centred on FloraHolland and its Aalsmeer-based auction house. Integral to this research are the author's interviews with numerous staff members at all levels of this organisation. While the facts and figures present a dry description of the organisation, quotes from these interviews permit an insider’s view into the working environment of FloraHolland. One interviewee describes the industry as: 'Not only white and male and all that: there are a lot of religious people, too. There’s a bedrijfsgebed, a company prayer, along with daily news items, that appears in people’s inboxes.' (p255) Nasty Weeds From a wider perspective, the book investigates flower plantations in Africa and South America which are also reliant on FloraHolland to sell their produce. These plantations are often Dutch-owned - and sometimes staffed by locals paid less than the daily minimum wage to work in harsh conditions. It reeks a little of former Dutch colonialism. Other unsavory topics involve market competition seemingly controlled by Dutch airlines increasing freight costs for growers outside the Netherlands, or Schiphol refusing landing rights to airlines offering cheaper freight to these growers. Tying together the ends Holland Flowering is a difficult book to categorise, being a mix of history, interviews and social commentary. The introduction is a long ramble covering 45 pages and giving little clue to what argument the author is going to follow in the ensuing pages. A lack of headings and paragraphs often results in the reader becoming lost in the text. Distracting, albeit extremely interesting subjects like sodomy on board VOC ships (p258), further detract the flow of the text and the reader's understanding of the central subject matter. Yet undoubtedly, flowers continue to bring beauty into the lives of many people. Birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and dinner invitations are marked with the giving of flowers, so guaranteeing the continued longevity of the flower industry. Reading Holland Flowering offers an insight into the industry that drives these flower-giving traditions. Buy this book  Ana McGinley  More >


Hidden like Anne Frank

The story of Anne Frank and her diary is one of he most enduring of World War II. There can be few people who do not know about the Jewish girl who hid with her family in an Amsterdam building, before being betrayed and captured by German soldiers and transported to a concentration camp. Yet Anne is not the only child who was forced to go into hiding. Recently released by Arthur A. Levine Books, Hidden like Anne Frank is a collection of fourteen personal accounts from Jewish children who survived Hitler's ethnic cleansing during WWII. Like Anne Frank, the individual narrators were forced to abandon their freedom and become reliant on the kindness of non-Jewish people who helped to hide them in their homes. Unlike Anne Frank, all fourteen individuals survived the Holocaust and lived to tell their stories. The stories contain similar underlying themes: the separation of children from their parents and siblings loss of identity fear hunger dependance on strangers for survival and, anxiety about the future. Yet the individual voices also provide unique perceptions of life as a Jewish person in the Netherlands during the war years. Further, the narrators speak of the ramifications of this experience on their lives in the ensuing years after the war ended. Not surprisingly, problems with re-attaching to surviving biological family members for children who felt deserted by their parents are apparent in many of the stories. As stated by Jack Eljon: 'I couldn't forgive my parents for handling me over to strangers. I couldn't shake off the feeling that they'd abandoned me. There's no way a boy of four can understand the idea that he is being sent away for his own good.' (pg67-8) The stories also provide information about Dutch society during the German campaign to rid the country of Jewish people. Almost all narrators discuss the efforts of the Dutch Resistance Movement to protect Jewish people by concealing them in the homes of supporters. The stories also expose the collaboration between local NSB (Dutch Socialist Movement) and the Nazis, resulting in the betrayal of Dutch Jewish citizens to the German forces by Dutch people. Hidden Like Anne Frank is the collaborated work of two Dutch men - Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis, respectively a filmmaker/cameraman and journalist. This book and its preceding website (www.hiddenlikeannefrank.com) are well-presented chronicles of survivors of the Holocaust that need to be incorporated in to existing Dutch historical records. Highly recommended. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >