One of my favorite genres is historical fiction. Over the years I’ve read James A. Michener, Herman Wouk, C.S. Forrester, and many others, so when given the opportunity to review a work on the history of Holland, I couldn’t say no. The Dutch: Prelude To Their Golden Age is Richard E. Schultz’s debut novel and he does a credible job of giving us some insight into the influence the Dutch have had on the development of our culture.
Although the vast majority of the story takes place in the latter half of the 16th Century, we’re presented with the main characters of that era and then given background information on their lineage dating back to 8 A.D. In spite of this seemingly confusing style, the story is coherently tied together. As is my habit, I did a cursory Google search to find out how much of the story is actual history and how much is fiction. I could find very little, but that’s OK; the story was interesting enough to keep me from feeling that I was being cheated.
However, there are some flaws, the most noticeable being the visual format of the book. The pages have narrower margins than normal, making each page seem crowded, as though the publisher was trying to save paper. There are also some issues with punctuation, spelling, and things an English teacher (like me) would notice that could have easily been remedied with more careful editing and proofreading. In addition, as is common with many works of historical fiction, this one could have used some maps to give a visual perspective of how battles, towns, rivers, etc., are laid out. But having said all that, this is still a book worth reading. It may not win a Pulitzer, but it’s an interesting journey into the possible “What ifs” that many of us like to ponder.