Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach
This book appealed to me on a number of different levels. First, it is art historical fiction, a subgenre that I find particularly interesting. Second, it is set in a 17th century Amsterdam in the midst of tulipomania, a time period and socio-economic phenomenon that I find fascinating. I love tulips and coffee shops, but find the speculation of that time mind-boggling.
In Tulip Fever, Moggach does a wonderful job illustrating the mania. She manages to portray all the different perspectives and show just how someone might become overcome by the mania. Also, by focusing the narrative on diverse characters, she ends up with a wonderfully well-drawn picture of early-mid 17th century Amsterdam.
Moggah uses historical personage Jan van Loos as one of her protagonists, but her writing diverges from other art historical fiction (like Girl with a Pearl Earring, Girl in Hyacinth Blue, etc.) because she does not focus on the artist's work. His work is simply a jumping off point, a means to introduce her two main characters. Her novel is really about their relationship and what their adulterous love for each other leads them to do. And, of course, the tulips, the novel is also about flower and the passions that it inspired during that period.