Book Review | The Anatomy Lesson : a novel by Nina Siegal

book cover The Anatomy Lesson : a novel by Nina SiegalUsing the voices of alternating narrators, The Anatomy Lesson shares the events leading up to Rembrandt’s famous 1632 painting: The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp. Our main characters are the man who is to hang for thievery crimes, his pregnant partner who tries to have him released, the curio dealer who will deliver his body to the anatomy, the doctor who will perform the dissection, the artist who will paint the dissection and the man who searches for a tangible soul within the body. Siegal names these characters the body, the heart, the mouth, the hands, the eyes, and the mind and uses their points of view to shape her novel, a work of art and historical fiction.

The book flows pretty well. Despite the alternating narrators and a few jumps back in time, it is easy for the reader to understand the course of events. The only exception to this is a few interruptions (chapters) by a present day restorer who is working on the piece. This “addition” actually subtracted from the overall quality of the novel. Other than that, I have few complaints. The story was interesting from the beginning, appropriate dialogue seemed to be used for the 17th century, and the characters were fairly well developed and interconnected. Siegal clearly did her research and reading made me feel that I had been transported to Amsterdam in 1632. For those interested in art fiction or historical fiction about that time period, especially anyone with an interest in Rembrandt, this would be a fascinating read. Check your local library for a copy, but keep in mind this book was just released in March 2014 and there may be a queue of holds.

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About amy de simone
Amy is an active volunteer, traveler and photographer. She is interested in art, libraries, museums and nonprofits. She holds an M.A. in Library & Information Studies and a B.A. in Italian Language & Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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