Wednesday, 10 June 2015

The Miniaturist

The blurb: On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives at a grand house in Amsterdam to begin her new life as the wife of wealthy merchant Johannes Brandt. Though curiously distant, he presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations ring eerily true. As Nella uncovers the secrets of her new household she realizes the escalating dangers they face. The miniaturist seems to hold their fate in her hands – but does she plan to save or destroy them?

Rating: 4/5

I’ve wanted to read this book for such a long time! I finally picked it up last month and I liked it, despite it taking me a while to get into. I’m glad I persevered as I think it’s definitely one of the most original stories I’ve read and beautifully written. I haven’t read much historical fiction before so it was quite interesting to read something set in 17th century Amsterdam and the social context of the time. Quite a lot of issues are touched upon including women’s rights, homosexuality and racism. I wasn’t necessarily expecting this from the description and I have seen it mentioned by others that Jessie Burton tries to include too much. I think that’s a valid point and fans of historical fiction might look for a lot more detail, but for me it was enough to provide a backdrop for the plot if not a full in-depth social commentary of the time.

There was one aspect of the book that I felt let down by, and that is that the mystery of the miniaturist is never fully explained. The reason the book had appealed to me so much was because of this character and wanting to find out who they were, and why their miniatures behave the way they do; in actual fact, I don’t think the book is really about the miniaturist or Nella’s cabinet. The detailed descriptions of the packages Nella receives from the miniaturist were lovely to read, but the questions posed in the description above are not answered as you might expect - the reader never finds out how the miniaturist is able to know what goes on in Nella’s home or the motives behind their actions. I was left feeling like the mystery of the miniaturist was just a device to add a whimsical feel where otherwise the plot would have been fairly linear. However, I did still enjoy the rest of the story, so I’ve chosen to only take one star from my rating for this.

Are you thinking of reading The Miniaturist?

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