The Miniaturist

I fight to emerge.

When eighteen year old Nella arrives in Amsterdam, she expects a warm welcome as the wife of a powerful merchant. Instead she enters a house of secrets, a house that she feels certain will never have a place for her.

This feeling of being an outsider is only made worse when her new husband gifts her a beautiful miniature of their house. Nella spurns it as a child’s toy, an insult to her place in the family. But while her home keeps its secrets locked up, the miniature and the mysterious miniaturist who furnishes it, may just be the tools to unravel them.

Set in post reformation Netherlands, Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist is a spellbinding blend of historical drama and magical realism. It speaks to the ways we are all restricted by circumstance, and the roles we take on to overcome these restrictions. Or at least our very human attempts at making a place for ourselves in a world made for others.

I went into this read with some misgivings as I’d been warned of the slowness of the plot, of the often times confusing nature of the narrative. But I’d also been assured of the beautiful, atmospheric writing and the depth of themes that run through its core. All these things are true.

I did find the plot lagged.

I did find myself confused at times.

And if you’re the kind of reader who needs everything to be made clear, to have a neat delineated package that you can make sense of, then maybe this one’s not for you.

But if you’re partial to a little style over substance, to open-to-interpretation plot lines, and a heavy dose of atmosphere, then grab The Miniaturist and give it a go.

Thankfully, in this case, atmosphere and open endings are my jam. And although there were moments when I wanted the narrative to hurry up and get started, I really enjoyed the immersive experience that is reading this book.

I’ve seen a lot of criticisms about this book to do with unbelievable characters. I didn’t find that at all. This book is all about hypocrisy, and being trapped by both external forces and those of our own making. I saw characters making choices, for better or worse, to get ahead with what they’d been dealt. Yes, this often meant they acted in hypocritical ways, but to me I felt the realities of their situations and could see how they might come to their decisions.

Or maybe I’m just a sucker for stories about women trying to make their mark on a man’s world.

A really lovely read, and for all it’s flaws I’ll give it:

4 out of 5 stars


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