I daresay I feel a little rusty, getting back into the swing of things here. Whilst reviews won’t be coming as often as they were, I am trying to get things going again. I also see I have some loyal readers who seem to miss me. In my days of laying in bed feeling firstly, sorry for myself (I don’t feel well, my 10 year high school reunion is upcoming and I can’t go, not to mention a group of people from my elementary school in NY got together for a reunion, which I also could not attend) and secondly, just not feeling well, I decided to tackle to beast that is my ‘TBR’ list. God help me is it lengthy! However, if they all are as fantastic as ‘The Miniaturist’, I may tackle it quickly! Ready? Here we go!
When I was a little girl, I had a dollhouse. Granted, it was not as grand as this one, nor was it one that required someone to make pieces for me. So, I’m a little jealous of Nella Oortman’s, which is a miniature of her very home. It was a gift from her husband, Johannes Brandt. This image is of the actual dollhouse that belonged to Nella Oortman-Brandt; you can see it in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Isn’t it stunning? The craftsmanship of the past is something that I wish would make a comeback today, I have to admit. Anyway, let me get to it. (See, I’m rusty. Ugh!)
Publication Date: August 26th 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction
Specsavers National Book Award for Books Are My Bag New Writer of the Year (2014)
Waterstones Book of the Year (2014)
Synopsis: Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam-a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion-a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.
“There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed…”
On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office-leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.
But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist-an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .
Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand-and fear-the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?
Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.
I read a lot of negative reviews about this book on Goodreads..and I admit, sometimes I am fickle and I will pay attention to them. However, this time, I didn’t. And I’m glad that I didn’t because I feel they’re unwarranted. I welcome all opinions but sometimes I wonder if I read the same book as others. I have my complaints but they’re relatively small. My first one would be that I’d have liked more description of Amsterdam. Whilst I got an idea of it, it was never really fleshed out for me. I’d also have liked a little bit more descriptions of the character’s appearances. Again, I had an idea, but I like them vibrant. However, what they lacked in appearance, I felt their personalities very strongly. Nella, though shy and timid at the beginning, I liked seeing the building of her character and seeing her grow into her own person. Johannes, though a bit bland, was likable. He clearly cared for his family but he had some demons to contend with. Marin, to be frank, you’re going to think that she’s a bitch–but once you learn why, you’ll become a bit more sympathetic to her. Other characters seemed to just be there just to be there. Not an entirely bad thing though as they did, in their own ways, help the story along.
This is a book that is full of secrets that require unraveling…and at times, you’re going to want to skip ahead to find out if they’re solved–don’t. (Because you don’t want spoilers! 😉 ) For example…whilst yes, we find out /who/ The Miniaturist is…we don’t. They’re a bit of an enigma yet her actions drove the story. And whilst that may well frustrate some of you, I find that I liked that. It was an unanswered question, yet, it wasn’t one that I wasn’t so much desiring an answer to. There’s moments where the book is slow but stick with it! Your curiosity and the emotions of the book will keep you going. There is a great deal of action with moments of slowness, yes, but I promise if you stick with it, you might feel it was worth it. There is tragedy aplenty and you will not get a happy ending but one gets the feeling that from the ashes, Nella will rise like a phoenix and she will make her way in the world somehow. Rather, that’s the hope anyway.
This is a book that you can tell is a labor of love for Ms. Burton, who spent four years working on it. It’s her first novel and I am a fan. I shall be reading her next novel, whenever that comes out. I hope you’ll give this wonderful tome a look–it’s one that will be remaining on my shelf…and it’s moved from my ‘TBR’ pile to my ‘Will Reread’ pile. Ah, piles. I’ll never really not have one…or two. Or ten.
Jessie Burton studied at Oxford University and the Central School of Speech and Drama, where she appeared in productions of The House of Bernarda Alba, Othello, Play and Macbeth. In April 2013 her first novel, The Miniaturist, was sold at an 11-publisher auction at the London Book Fair, and went on to sell in 29 other countries around the world. It was published by Picador in the UK and Holland in July 2014, and the USA in August 2014, with other translations to follow. Radio 4 commissioned it as their Book at Bedtime in July 2014. She is currently writing her second novel.