here is a non-spoiler review of a book that I recently finished and enjoyed.
Name: The Miniaturist
Author: Jessie Burton
Publication: July 3, 2014 by by Ecco
Genre: Historical Fiction
“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?
Do you also often pick your next read according to season or mood? I feel like we all do that, subconsciously at least. Our mind automatically inclines toward a book that will set right into the current scenario of our lives. Well I do that a lot, anyway. Come October, I am feeling particularly peculiar and rather Halloweeny(even though we don’t celebrate it)! And TV shows like Scream Queens and How To Get Away With Murder aren’t exactly helping my situation so I went through my collection and picked this book up and man, was it spooky.
This book is not scary and it wasn’t intended to be but it has a haunted element to it. Set in 17th Century Amsterdam, this text is highly character-driven. It focuses on Nella who is a young woman trying to be the wife that society expects her to be but by the end she realises that trying to be who you are not will only result in your head on a spike. The characters of Nella, her husband, her sister-in-law and every other significant person is brought out but this is done in layers, depicting that there are many sides to a person and that one can never truly know another, however hard one may try.
While reading, I couldn’t help but underline several passages that dealt with the position of women in society. Nella and Marin, though strong characters exclaim how they are nobody without the men in their lives and women are but homemakers. Jessie Burton shows the 1680s as a time when women were starting to question their role in society, trying to assert agency and take a hold of their lives. They crave the power that men have. Nella experiances it when she trades sugar for money, ‘feeling like a man’. Marin never married because she wanted to be the head of her household. Theposition of women as subservient undergoes a change.
‘EVERY WOMAN IS THE ARCHITECT OF HER OWN FORTUNE’
The mystery in the book is guessing who the miniaturist is, who is sending Nella dolls that predict the doom to come. She/he seems to be everywhere, always seeing, an omniscient presence.
This book reminded me of the classic ‘A Doll’s House’ by Henrik Ibsen where also at first, the main character is treated like a child, a doll to be petted but at the end, she revolts and goes to educate herself and make a life out of her existence.
This book that Burton wrote for more than four years is beautifully written and has a novel element to it and I recommend you pick it up :).
Be happy, keep smiling and get spooked 😛