15 June 2015

Review: The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton

"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?

Honestly. I couldn't have put it better myself, hence why you have pretty much the entire blurb in front of you now.

I picked up this book because A. the cover is gorgeous and B. miniatures that seem to magically mirror their counterparts are awesome in every way. I was not disappointed, in fact, I was far from it. What I never took away from the blurb is that the miniaturist only has a small, but significant, part to play. They are on the sidelines, looking in and commenting in the same way we would, but knowing far more.

No, this book is about far more than a little but of magic. This book is about the harsh reality of living in this era, in this city. There was so much more to this book than I originally thought. It talks about real issues that are still lingering in our world today: arranged marriage, racism, sexism and being gay. It talks about a world where we must keep secrets from others to have a better social standing, and to become rich; a completely ridiculous and unfair world, and yet there are still people today who are sexist or homophobic.

Although I thought the book was very slow to start, where it was trying to give plenty of background and atmosphere, the rest of it passed by in a blur as more and more interesting things happened. There is some absolutely brilliant storytelling, and not one of the characters felt unrealistic to me. I loves each character and their quirks that made them unique. They are real people to me, and that made it very special.

I did have a couple of issues though. I would have loved to have the miniaturist playing a much larger role, being more like a puppet master. We never really see what's going on with this character, and it would have been great to get a bit more out of them, because they are extremely intriguing. Maybe they really can tell the future and could have helped but decided not to. We never knew the real purpose of them being there, and in some ways their existence failed to move the plot along at all - life did that by its-self.

And another; Nella is very quick to change her ideas. She doesn't seem to really care about certain things that happen to her where others would have given a punch to the face. She needed more balls, in my opinion. I know that's not particularly realistic, but I need my characters to have a bit of fire!

It was a very abrupt kind of ending, and one that really left me wanting more, like the book never truly closed on that last page. I am somewhat of a fantasist so was very disappointed that the other-worldliness and magic of the miniaturist was never actually addressed, and even more so seeming as they are the title of the book.

Nonetheless, it was a great read and very engrossing. I simply had to know what happened.

3.5 / 5

Phew! That was a long one!

The Miniaturist on Goodreads.