Sunday, 11 January 2015

The Miniaturist- Jessie Burton

The Blurb

There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .

On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Only later does Johannes appear and present 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 mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways . . .

Nella is at first mystified by the closed world of the Brandt household, but as she uncovers its secrets she realizes the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?

Beautiful, intoxicating and filled with heart-pounding suspense, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

The Review

The Miniaturist was everywhere throughout the second half of 2014, and now it's available in paperback it's sure to go to another level entirely.  The Miniaturist was chosen as the Waterstone's book of the year and also named in many of the 'Book of the Year' lists for 2014, so I decided to kick off a new year of reading with this historical fiction novel. 

Being honest, I found it quite difficult to get into this one- I think because there were quite a lot of characters introduced in quick succession, and that along with a setting and time frame that I know very little about pushed me outside my comfort zone.  That's not a negative, because I'm a firm believer that sometimes it's good to try something different, but there were times I considered putting it to one side and picking up something else to read

The writing itself totally grabbed me- it was vivid and dramatic and completely swept me away to Amsterdam in the late 17th Century.  I could feel Nella's vulnerable yet somehow stubborn nature ebbing off the page and couldn't help but have empathy for her as she struggled to adapt to life as a wife part of a well-known, established family.  As the tale unfolded, like layer upon layer of an onion being peeled back to reveal the small yet necessary heart at the centre, I became more and more enthralled by the hidden world of the Brandt family.  The elusive and abrupt sister- in- law Marin, the doting and compliant housemaid Cornelia, the black servant Otto, and even Johannes precious dogs have a role to play in this unsettling tale- but the enigmatic miniaturist who appears to be all seeing and all knowing, even of what goes on behind closed doors, is the central cog, giving clues to the young Mrs Brandt about what the future holds.

Jessie Burton cleverly drops a plot twist when the pace starts to slow, and I'm sure that's what makes The Miniaturist appeal to so many.  Whilst I wasn't blown away, I'm sure it's a book that's going to stay with me.  It has the haunting, unsettling feel of a du Maurier book (which is a triumph in itself- anyone who can get close to Daphne is winning in my eyes!) and the ability to transport to an unfamiliar bygone era.

If you're a fan of historical fiction, The Miniaturist is a must.  Even if you're not, it's well worth a whirl.  Part mystery, part romance, part family saga- Jessie Burton's debut ticks a lot of boxes.

The Miniaturist is out now in paperback, published by Picador.

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