My book review of ‘The Cheese Factory’ written by Simone van der Vlugt
In my view
This historical fiction is set at the end of the 19th century and in the second part at the beginning of the 20th century and the first World War. It begins in 1892 when the main character Lydia loses both her parents in a short amount of time. She is a young woman of – I imagine – approximately in her late twenties or begin thirties.
A story about cheese. A bit how it’s made, a bit about the different before and since the industrial revolution and a bit about the different places of cheese. I am born in another cheese city, but the most popular Gouda cheese is not made in Gouda but in the neighbourhood. But comparing to the neighbouring countries of The Netherlands: it’s just a stone’s throw away these distances between where the milk comes from, where cheese is made and where it’s sold for local or broader transport.
Lydia’s father has as part of his legacy left her his logbook and sketch about a bright idea. During that time in The Netherlands, it was very uncommon for a woman to study, work and run a business. As soon as a woman would marry, everything she owns – including in exceptional cases a business – would become property of her husband. But Lydia did not come across a suitable partner yet. And since her life is changing due to the events in her mourning period, she does not commit for the time being.
It soon becomes clear that Lydia is quite a special person. She is born in a privileged position, but being rich does not necessarily mean being happy and loved. She was the only child in her family but felt loved among another family who were her parents and her best acquaintances and friends. And they all belong to the Amsterdam society life. Lydia decides to fulfills her fathers latest project and starts a cheese factory with the help of the Dutch farmer Huib. Such a thing is uncommon and there is gossip among the society life in Amsterdam.
The journey Lydia goes through with the start of the cheese factory and everything that comes with it is wondrous. And meanwhile life happens and the first World War unleashed at our Belgian southern neighbours. Wallonia and Flanders – the two language-different province groups of Belgium – have to face and endure heavy battles and sieges throughout the country. The book shows you several point of views of which I never thought before nor heard of during history lessons at high school. A heart of courage and family and those who need help first. Lydia becomes a little bit of an icon locally. Throughout this novel, real historical icons are presented now and then. Such as Aletta Jacobs, Mairi Chisholm, Elsie Knocker, Marie Curie and Rosa Vecht. In the novel’s afterword and appendixes there is more explanation about these real historical persons and some explanation about the cheese and how that differs from some other assumptions.
The writing style is lovely. It let’s you imagine the whole story like if you’re watching the film premiere. I discovered in the book no spelling or grammar errors.
The main character of this book is Lydia Oorthuys and the first part of the book centers around her life. The second part I will not reveal because it is based on the events of the first part. Two other important characters to Lydia are farmer Huib Minnes and ladies maid Fieke. I love how these three totally different characters interact with each other along the evolving story. There are many more interesting and diverse characters that come along but it is hard to make a choice out all of these so I’ve chosen to only mention the three most often appearing ones of the first part and a few of the real historic characters.
So some real existing characters come along too such as Aletta Jacobs, Mairi Chisholm, Elsie Knocker, Marie Curie and Rosa Vecht. The book lives up to their known character. It is well written and seems historically correct or with the freedom of fiction you can imagine what they experience could have happen in such a way.
Title: De Kaasfabriek [NL] / The Cheese Factory [EN]
Author: Simone van der Vlugt
Genre: Historical Fiction / Fiction
Publisher: Ambo Anthos Uitgevers
Year 1st edition & read edition: 2020
Year read: 2022
Original title & language: De Kaasfabriek [NL]
Read language: Dutch
Places: Amsterdam / Antwerpen / Purmerend / Veurne and many more
Rating: 9 / 10 stars
I hope you like the book too. It is worth to read it! I am not telling about the story too much, you have to read the book yourself and make your own opinion.
Loves from Sophie