This novel is a work of fiction loosely based Cinderella, and set against a very real historical backdrop. First, some background information. The book is set in seventeenth century Holland. The Protestant Reformation began in the previous century with the help of people like Martin Luther and John Calvin. The latter was especially important where the Netherlands were concerned. There was a profusion of Calvinists who fled to Holland to escape religious persecution in western Europe. Calvinists believed in the predestination, among other things. Additionally, they were known for being adamantly against singing, dancing, art, et cetera. Also, Holland at this time was an economic powerhouse of Europe. They had one of the largest port cities of the time, which was a very important trade center. Tulips were being imported by the ton. Even though they are now recognized all across the globe as the symbol of the region, they were not always. The plant is not even native to the area. In order to get all you can out of this book, it is important to understand the historical context.
At the beginning, and on through until the very end, the narrator’s identity is unknown. In retrospect, I think I sort of knew in the middle somewhere, but it isn’t said explicitly until the book is nearly over. What we do know is that the narrator has been there. They are telling the story after it has happened, not during. They experienced the events first hand, and are looking back on them now, sometimes fondly and other times not, but with the intent of informing us of the truth. They have no desire to leave out the undesirable bits because then we have an incomplete picture. This story simply would not work if pieces of the puzzle were missing.