It is 1490. Northern Europe is in the grip of sweeping plagues and religious inquisitions, and in daily terror of the Day of Judgement. In the town of Den Bosch, the artist Jerome (Hieronymus Bosch) paints his visionary denunciation of sin and folly, ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’, while his neglected wife Aleyt strays into sin herself. But Jerome is not immune from the world he portrays. A rival artist and a corrupt Abbess concoct a hellish plot that threatens to destroy him.
What a gripping book. I’m not a great fan of Hieronymous Bosch’s paintings, skilled though they are—too may demons and visions of hell—so was not sure if I would enjoy a novel based on his life. However the characterisation of the protagonists, especially Bosch and his wife was so true to life that I couldn’t put the book down. I just had to know what happened to them. Dodds describes life in the small town where Bosch lives in great detail, showing his extensive research into the period and the course of the Inquisition in the Netherlands. But it’s the human side of the story, with all its strengths and failings that brings it to life. His ‘bad guys’ are truly bad, but we still see a glimpse of why they are what they are. No stereotypes here.