17th c. Holland was cosmopolitan enough for Palagius, a free black, to make a way for himself, even if he never felt totally at home. The beginning of this book is his, as this African prince, captured and sold as a slave in the Dutch East Indies, become a fervent Christian, then freed, goes to Holland in hopes of being ordained to return to the Indies to serve his countrymen. He becomes instead a doctor, using both western medicine and African methods, while remaining a strict Christian. He meets the exiled widow, Elizabeth of Bohemia, and his life is overturned. He becomes her secretary. Won't spoil the wonderfully complex plot. The writing is wonderful, especially in exploring the personalities of these very different people. They are very rounded characters, in both their public and private spheres. The novel tries to take in the wider context of Europe at a very important time period, but while the history seems correct, it doesn't have the pizzaz of the two central characters.