Monday 27 June 2016

The Miniaturist

Oh yes, bravo!

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. 

I remember The Miniaturist hit the bestseller list a while back, and I was interested because a very close friend of mine collects miniatures. On her wedding, I ordered a tiny, perfectly decorated wedding cake.

The idea of a book made me smile, but I wasn't at all sure what to expect. I hadn't read the blurb. Recently world-wearied from a run of bad fiction, I wanted something good, and I wanted it to surprise me.

Jessie Burton hit the spot perfectly.

I really have huge admiration for her style. Page after page went past, and I would happily have read more. Characters so beautifully formed, they will not be forgotten.

Wonderful poise and pace:

She has duplicated herself - two hearts, two heads, four arms, four legs - like a monster to be recorded in a ship's log, annotated on one of Johanne's stolen maps.

And a dark glimmer of humour:

'She never married,' Pellicorne says. 'A waste.' For some of us, Nella thinks, it's a waste to be married.

The fascinating thing about this book is that it's a story with many, many questions, none of which really get answered, but for some reason that doesn't matter. You come away feeling satisfied.

Part of that, I suppose, is that it's a very realistic book. A work of historical fiction glittering with magical realism, which makes you believe the fantastical without offering the absurd. Knights on white horses would certainly have been welcome in parts, but instead you get credibility, and somehow that's even better.

I really did enjoy it.

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