While researching her latest novel the author spent weeks walking the canals and streets, and unearthing the Old Town’s hidden history
February and it’s not yet quite spring in Amsterdam. Soon, the buds in the rose garden in Vondelpark will start to blush pink and yellow; the leaves on the trees surrounding the lake will begin to shimmer with silver and green. Soon, at least in a normal year, people will gather again at the bandstand and the Blauwe Theehuis, the blue teahouse, in this elegant 19th-century park named after the poet Joost van den Vondel, and the diagonal paths that cross the museum quarter between the Rijksmuseum and the Concertgebouw – once a region of small farms and market gardens – will be filled with conversation and bicycles again.
But our focus lies not in the 19th-century city – nor the 20th century with the Anne Frank House beside the Westerkerk – but rather in the old medieval centre of Amsterdam. I should be there now, conducting a walking tour for English and Dutch readers around the canals and overlooked alleyways that inspired my latest adventure novel, The City of Tears. I should be explaining how, in the bloody aftermath of the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in Paris in August 1572, my imaginary first family, the Jouberts, flee persecution to the city of tears itself, Amsterdam, to build a new life for themselves.