Reviews of Tulipomania
Allegory upon the Tulip Mania
by Jan Breughel the Younger
‘An unbelievably fascinating account of the great tulip craze of the 17th century.’
‘Dash has clearly done his research… Tulipomania captures the frenzy of a fascinating phenomenon.’
New York Times
‘Gripping and amazing… a happy weight of detail’
‘Highly readable... Mike Dash tells the story beautifully’
Mike Dash's Tulipomania is not quite a book for the pocket, although it would fit well enough into a roomy, gusseted, waxed-jacket one. But why stow it in a pocket when, so nicely hand-sized, it invites you to read it in bed, or curl up by the fire with it? You might as well make yourself comfortable at the outset, because you will not want to put it down. This is tulip-mania-as-ripping-yarn. I can't remember the last time I read a plant book or gardening book that was such a page turner. On the evidence, Mike Dash could probably make train-spotting into a riveting read. Give him the tulip craze and there's no holding him. From the opening lines of the preface (and who among us always reads the introduction? On no account miss this one), you are caught up and magicked away - to the beery taverns of Haarlem, the Celestial Mountains (the Tien Shan, the backbone of Asia), and the 'Abode of Bliss', the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. When considered coldly, analytically, the amount of history you are being fed is, like the cast of characters, prodigious; but such is the artistry of the writing that you will simply mop it all up, sponge-like, and absorb it, as you pursue the twists and turns of the story. And you don't HAVE to read the Notes, but you will probably enjoy them almost as much, for they are everything that Notes should be. Comparing this book to Anna Pavord's equally acclaimed The Tulip is rather like trying to decide whether you want cheese or a pudding at the end of dinner. Each has its own allure, and the greedy among us will probably opt for both. But let me tell you one thing: in this case, if you choose the pudding only, it will be at the expense of the best bit of cheese you'll encounter for a long time. Connoisseurs please take note.
‘Absorbing… a riveting read… Tulipomania is a fascinating exploration of human greed ands self-delusion – and also a tribute to our ageless search for beauty. A compulsive read.’
Deborah Moggach, author of Tulip Fever, in The Literary Review
[FIVE STARS] Flower power – 17th century style!
Reviewer: Lynn Hughes (Bucks County, PA United States)
This is a fascinating view of the impact of trade on the development of culture, of the limitless capacity of humans to be petty and avaricious, of the naive and inventive efforts of gardeners who knew almost nothing about the biology of plants, and much, much more. Starting with the earliest interest in tulips in (and giving a wonderful overview of the cultural values of) ancient Turkey, the author tracks the rise in European interest, brings the tulip to the Netherlands, introduces us to the individual who all but invented gardening, explains how tulips evolved from intense red flowers to the brightly colored and varied forms they reached under Dutch cultivation, and shows how the social structure of the Netherlands (most particularly Amsterdam) set the stage for one of the great booms and busts in economic history. This ground-breaking work (no pun intended) explores this infamous event in new depth and reads like an adventure novel. Highly recommended to anyone who is interested in almost anything -- it's that eclectic in its narrative scope.
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