4 x novels set in Amsterdam
With its fairytale architecture and atmospheric maze of canals and cobbles, Amsterdam has been inspiring writers for centuries.
Here are four books that bring Amsterdam to life in print, and some of the real life locations described within their pages.
Jessie Burton’s bestseller about a young girl sent to marry a rich merchant paints a vivid picture of 17th century life in Amsterdam, and features many real life locations which are still going strong today. Protagonist Nella and her new family live in one of the grand houses on the ‘Golden Bend’ stretch of the Herengracht between Leidsestraat and Vijzelstraat, while her husband Johannes works in the Dutch East India headquarters (Oost-Indisch Huis). The Oude Kerk, Royal Palace of Amsterdam and The Rasphuis Gate all feature prominently in the book. Oh and Nella’s doll’s house itself? You can see the one that inspired Jessie Burton on display in the Rijksmuseum. Read this great blog by author Jessie Burton for a more detailed description of the locations used in her novel. Something to please fans – The Miniaturist is currently being adapted for a three part TV drama by the BBC, with filming taking place this winter. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, Picador/Ecco
First published in 1947 and set in Amsterdam, Gerard Reve’s postwar masterpiece ‘De Avonden’ has been lauded in the Netherlands as a modern classic for decades, ranked by the Society of Dutch Literature as the country’s best novel of all time. But non-Dutch speaking readers are unlikely to have ever heard of it until recently, due to the fact that the novel has only just been translated into English. Drawing comparisons with the works of JD Salinger and Jack Kerouac, Reve’s highly acclaimed tale of an alienated young office worker who is cynical about his middle class family and friends is a cultural cornerstone of Dutch life. The Evenings by Gerard Reve, translation by Pushkin Press
The Fault in Our Stars
John Green’s heart wrenching story of two terminally ill teenagers in love brings the protaganists to Amsterdam in one of the best loved sections of the book. Hazel and Augustus visit Amsterdam in search of novelist Peter van Houten and, after a disappointing meeting with the author at his home near Vondelpark, they enjoy a romantic meal and smoochy times at various spots around the city – including the Anne Frank House and The Rijksmuseum. Many people will be more familiar with the film than the book, in which Amsterdam played a starring role. Retrace Hazel and Augustus’ footsteps at the American Hotel (masquerading as the Hotel de Filosoof for the film), the Rijksmuseum tunnel, and the famous bench from ‘that’ scene (below), which you will find on the stretch of Leidsegracht near the intersection with Herengracht. It’s also marked on google maps for ease. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green, Dutton Books
Photo: James Bridges/TM and ©Fox 2000 Pictures. All rights reserved.
Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer prize winning novel about Fabritius’ priceless painting – which ends up as the secret property as New Yorker Theodore Decker – begins and ends in Amsterdam. The story opens with a sweating, drug-addled Theodore holed up in an Amsterdam hotel following a violent encounter with some dodgy art dealers. The hotel in question is apparently the rather swanky Ambassade on the Herengracht, also known as the Writer’s Hotel due to its strong links with the literary world (neighbouring publishing houses often book their authors into the hotel when they visit Amsterdam). Oh and as for Fabritius himself, the artist whose work inspired the novel was one of Rembrandt’s most gifted students and lived on the Runstraat, between Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht, in the heart of the Nine Streets. The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt, Brown & Company / Little