Friday, February 4, 2011

The Coffee Trader by David Liss

The library's First Friday of the Month Book Group discussed David Liss' historical novel The Coffee Trader this morning. In 1659 Amsterdam, home of the world's first commodities exchange, Miguel Lienzo takes a daring chance in the emerging coffee markets. Miguel is a Portuguese Jew, a converso, who has escaped from the terror of the Inquisition to the relative tolerance of Holland to become a commodities trader. He has won and lost a fortune in sugar and other goods and now gambles everything on coffee.
The reading group members all thought The Coffee Trader painted a vivid and fascinating portrait of Amsterdam in the 17th century in all it's diversity, vibrant business and shipping markets, and it's sleezy, filthy underside too. We didn't feel that the characters were as well-developed as the historical background details. We all agreed that the book's pace was a bit slow at times, but despite that everyone was interested enough in the story to finish the book.

We were very lucky to have our Dutch-born book group member fill in the background  of Dutch history and culture for us. Thanks, Nita!

This book would interest readers of historical fiction, the history of business and stock trading, and the history of Sephardic Jews in Europe.

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