book reviews

Book Review: The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

I can only apologise if you were expecting a review out of me yesterday.

I had every intention of writing this on Monday night – I was home early and had plenty of time on my hands… but WordPress had no plans to do ANYTHING for me. Reluctantly, I signed off.

I knew I wasn’t going to get anything written on Tuesday, and that is why in my Sunday Summary I commented that I may be late posting this. Why? It was my birthday! I had plans to be out for the evening – and I enjoyed every minute of it!

 

The Miniaturist

Goodreads – The Miniaturist

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?

I feel like I have spoken about this book a lot – and to my mind it deserves all the attention it gets.

I added this book to the TBR last year – but after watching the recent TV adaptation between Christmas and New Year… I knew I had to read this sooner rather than later. I love books and TV shows set in historic time periods, along with the social issues and differences to modern day life that come along with that.

Nella marries a rich merchant and travels to Amsterdam to start her new life in a position of power. The atmosphere of Amsterdam is extremely oppressive in comparison to today’s standards, with the oppression coming from the church and religion itself. Power is a double sided coin though – and there are many that would like to see her new husband Johannes Brandt fall from grace.

The dynamic of the city and the relationship Nella has with Johannes’ sister, Marin, go hand in hand with each other. Marin is distant and untrusting of Nella, but as the narrative, the lies and deceit gradually unfold, these two women have to join forces to withstand the storm. Marin would have many believe she paupers herself in humility to God, but she is far from virtuous in reality, which Nella soon discovers.

But within this city built on lies and corruption, resides the Miniaturist, who has a startling ability to see the details many would love to keep hidden…

Nella, and the perspective of the story from this naïve, young woman is written in an extraordinary way. Throughout we see how Nella develops from the innocent young girl, who thinks longingly of marriage and children, to a woman who is able to deal with hardship and finally take her role and accompanying responsibilities as Johannes Brandt’s wife. Whilst she always retains a glimmer of hope, something I attribute to her youth, her understanding of her new world and the corruption rife within it blossoms.

The characters and relationships are complex yet consistent, built within the web of society laced with prejudice and discrimination, a lack of gender rights and racial inequality. All of these issues are touched on beautifully, in such a way as to make you sympathise with each character and the difficulties they face in this oppressive life they lead.

I completely loved this book, and I cannot recommend this highly enough to anyone! Even if you cannot bear to read the book – watch the TV adaptation, please.

You won’t regret it.

Rebecca mono

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