"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.
Having read many amazing books this year, I decided that I was going to broaden my horizons and try something that I might not normally read. After trolling goodreads for a possible candidate I came across a book The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. Having won the ‘Waterstones book of the year award for 2014’ I thought I would give it a try.
I have to say I have mixed feelings about this book. For me, the first fifty percent of the book was very slow going. Although, as it neared the conclusion the book did pick up the pace, I’m not sure if that compensated for such a slow start. The main character Petronella or, Nella for short, was a complicated individual. At first she seemed somewhat naïve and girlish to me but by the end she had transitioned into a character that was wise and compassionate beyond her years. What I wasn’t convinced of was how fast the transformation in Nella’s character took place, especially when under the stress of the circumstances she found herself subject to.
I admire that the writer has explored some important topics in the Miniaturist with homophobia, equal rights and religious hypocrisy as some key themes but I don’t want to write spoilers by going into too much detail surrounding them. When considering the three central themes running throughout this book, I don’t know if the book was long enough to tackle them properly or possibly telling the story from the first person narrative restricted the exploration of them.
I understand character development advances the narrative of a novel but the way the characters’ developed or revealed themselves in The Miniaturist left me a little unconvinced by them as whole. For example, Johannes, was wise, composed and immensely private therefore the unbelievably silly and reckless way he behaves toward the end of the novel seemed too unreal. I had the same problem with Otto, and Marin, who seemed too intelligent and level-headed for her actions.
Another thing I struggled with when reading this book was what I was supposed to take away from it. When I finished reading, I couldn’t help but feel that there was some profound message, possibly attached to the miniaturist, wound like a coiled snake, twisting into, out of and around the plot. My problem was that this particular snake was just too slippery for my grip. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for subliminal messages hidden within an intricate story for a perceptive reader to identify, resulting in a complimentary pat on the back at the end of the novel at your Sherlock-esque detective skills, that end-of-book feel good feeling. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that from The Miniaturist and I came away feeling a little stupid, attaching various philosophical standpoints to the story to try and work out what it all meant, none of which hit the nail on the head.
Overall the book is incredibly well-written, the setting and historical knowledge was also impressive but it’s possible I ventured a little too far out of my comfort zone for this book.