A historic family drama based in and near 1640 Amsterdam, the wealthiest city on earth at the time, The Seventh Etching tells the story of two families over a one-year period. Both Griet and Johannes Verhoeven, farmers in their early ‘20s and Jos and Myriam Broekhof, wealthy merchants in their ‘30s, face devastating losses that threaten their livelihoods and their marriages.
After a major flood, Griet and Johannes attempt to rebuild two combined family farms – a unique, promising inheritance that initially brought them together, but now overwhelms them. Myriam secretly sells her husband’s valuable art collection to build a hidden monument to her deceased daughter. Jos suffers despair and defeat as he combs every corner of the city in his obsessive attempt to complete a set of playfully erotic etchings.
It is a six-year old Gypsy orphan, Nelleke, who connects the two couples. Sprightly and spirited, Nelleke both delights and exasperates. Might this mysterious child have the power to heal struggling adults and find the permanent home she seeks? Does she, innocently and unknowingly, hold the clue to the missing etching, as Jos suspects?
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"Delightful, compelling, drawn with conviction, details of domestic life limned with precision and care, The Seventh Etching shows every sign of success. Judith K. White has presented a taunt and true-to-life drama of Golden Age Holland that even Rembrandt might find revelatory."
"Thrilling... gripping... blends the detective, the dramatic, and the historical as it whisks the reader through one year of an obsessive, fast-paced quest for a missing, playfully sensual work of art in seventeenth-century Amsterdam."
"Mischievous determined and with unbounded curiosity, Nelleke is a young heroine of the ages. How she deals with terrible loss while keeping her tenacious spirit alive in a world dominated by distracted adults - this is a complex tale no fan of historic fiction or family drama will want to miss."
"At times frightening and sad, yet ultimately triumphant, Judith K. White's debut novel deftly engages both adults and children in an exploration of the universal struggle to find acceptance, affirmation, and love. I strongly recommend it."
Historical Amsterdam, Rich and Mysterious
"The Seventh Etching is Judith K. White's debut novel, and how novel it is! Classified as historical fiction, it brings to life a remarkable 17th-century Amsterdam. At that time, Amsterdam was considered a pivotal city; wealthy, artistic, and the center of world shipping and trade. White's story begins with a vignette that describes the fictional Nicholass Stradwijk's artistic striving as a young lad. His drawings are the first piece of the puzzle that encompasses The Seventh Etching. A family historical drama, the book is so much more than that, as White deftly tells the intertwining stories of Nicholass, Isabela, Nelleke, Jos and their families. As well as being a familial tale, White provides an interesting look at the way this orphanage was run in Amsterdam at this time, "Endowed by city funds, and well run by the Regents, (who were) members of Amsterdam's select wealthy class..." and earmarked for the children of Amsterdam citizens only. The young charges were cared for, educated and brought up to be maidservants or tradesmen apprentices. The young Nelleke was eligible for admission by virtue of her family's citizenship. Her story quickly engages the reader.
As we experience Nelleke's admission to the orphanage and struggle with her as she attempts to quell her over-sized bump of curiosity, we also become involved in the story of the Spanish "big sister" at the orphanage -- the lovely Isabela. Her task is to monitor the young charges assigned to her, taking care of their clothes, seeing that they attend classes and are on time for meals. In exchange for this service, she is given room and board. She, too, is an orphan, washed up upon Amsterdam's shores when her father's ship flounders.
The next key character we meet is the collector Jos Broekhof. Slight and short, he discovered the first six etchings of the series by Stradwijk and is desperate to find the seventh. Each is named a different day of the week; he has had them framed in sumptuous silver frames and stored in a hidden cabinet. There are seven matching frames, but one remains empty. The seventh was paid for, longed for, and is now apparently unattainable.
The etchings are erotic, playful, and striking in nature, and they appeal artistically and emotionally to the frustrated Jos. After the loss of their only child, his wife turned away from him, leaving him forlorn and at a loss. While trying to find the elusive seventh etching, Jos devotes his time to his business and his charitable works, one of which is the city's orphanage.
So the family stories begin to become a whole. We endeavor to discover the connections, the mysterious family ties that link each character in White's story. As we do, we also explore the ancient city of Amsterdam, learning to appreciate its beauty and its definitive usefulness to Europe as a trade center. We watch the orphans walk the streets, dressed in their distinctive red and black clothing, and sit with them in classrooms, reciting their lessons. White brings it all to life, and as the reader comes up for some modern fresh air, the story we have read lingers, and continues to enchant."
"The Seventh Etching is a brilliant and unforgettable book. From the very first few pages, the reader is transported to 17th Century Amsterdam, with all of its sights and sounds. The story is very compelling and includes charming characters. This is a a terrific and powerful novel, that weaves art and history into the plot. I am looking forward to the sequel."