Thursday, 5 February 2015

Book Review - The Miniaturist

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
There are precious few novels that I devour over the course of a single day but once I got into this I couldn't put it down.  I'm so impressed by tis debut novel that I can hardly wait for Jessie Burton's next offering, which I understand is different in theme and scope.
So, what is so good about this novel? Well the setting is marvellous. Seventeenth century Amsterdam is so beautifully drawn that I almost believed that I was walking along the canals or wandering through the hall in my indoor pattens. reading it on one of the coldest days of the year also helped me to empathise with the characters when the canals froze over! I also enjoyed learning something about the culture and mores of a time which I knew little about. The rigid Puritanical code of ethics made for a stifling cage which imprisoned the characters in various ways and ultimately led to tragic endings for some of them. 
The characters were well drawn though I did find it took me a while to warm to some of them.  I loved the central character of Nella from the first page; she's a feisty young woman at heart who blooms as the novel unfolds.  Some criticism of the novel is that she blooms rather too fast and this is not realistic. I can see what is meant by this but I didn't feel that this detracted from my enjoyment of the novel nor did it feel forced. Events unfolded that meant Nella had to draw on her inner resources perhaps more quickly than if her life had unfolded in an uneventful fashion. Also I think there's little to be gained trying to second guess what a character would do in 'real life' - they are after all a character in a work of fiction so some artistic license is to be expected.
The character of the miniaturist is mysterious and intriguing. The miniatures that are created help Nella to navigate her way through  her new family, to understand the events happening around and to her and to find the strength of character to do what must be done. Knowing that the miniature house is sitting in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam makes me want to visit that city to see it in reality.
Lastly the book is beautifully written. It is easy to read and a real page turner. There is an element of mystery and suspense in the novel, also an element of the supernatural, all handled really confidently. Even though some of the things that happen are astonishing they never feel unrealistic and Jessie Burton handles the tension and surprises really well.
I truly loved this book, it is up there with The Night Circus as a real favourite that I know I will read again.  It made me cry on several occasions and that is always a good indicator of how much I have invested in a novel - you can't beat a good weep over a character who has touched you!
I heartily recommend this novel. If you read it, let me know what you think.


  1. Thanks for the tip - I feel a book buying trip coming up.

    1. Glad to help! But please don't tempt me to buy more books!