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JANUARY 12, 2012
The Coffee Trader ~ David Liss
Sometimes I'm wrong about a book though I hate to admit it. I was almost 100 pages into The Coffee Trader and moaning that I wasn't enjoying the read but had to finish it as it was a book group choice. I knuckled down finally and was pleasantly surprised when very quickly the story just popped off the pages. When all was said and done I thoroughly relished the book, even going back to re-read parts of the beginning.
I honestly think what threw me is that The Coffee Trader is about commodity trading. This concept muddles my mind. Don't ask me how the stock exchange works cause it blows my mind. The Coffee Trader takes place in an exchange, albeit in mid-1600's in Amsterdam, and its coffee, not cash, but trading none-the-less.
The main character, Miquel is seeking to make his fortune in a scheme to corner the market on this new wondrous product of coffee. He enters into partnership with a mysterious woman, Geertruid and tries to keep the venture secret from his brother, Daniel and the villain of the story, Solomon Parido, a wealthy member of the Amsterdam Jewish community and the Ma Maad, The Portuguese Jewish community plays a large role in the whole and brings about happenings that would otherwise not be if not for the religion and culture. Though there are other vivid characters, none appealed to as much as Joachim Waagenaar, a gentile and Dutchman who loses all, his money, standing, face, in a deal with Miquel.
There are twists and turns in abundance and the outcome tickled me except for one aspect.
I enjoyed reading the author's note that explains his use of coffee vs. tulips or art to set the tone of trading in Dutch commerce of the mid 1600's. Also, I love this quote by character Miquel:
"He loved the money that came with success, but loved the power more".
How true of many powerful persons.
I'm so glad our group chose The Coffee Trader for this month's discussion and I'm really glad I stuck with it. A solid historical read. Now it's time for a cup of coffee.