Author – Jessie Burton
Published – 2014
Genre – Historical fiction
I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch of The Miniaturist but having a signed hardback that wouldn’t benefit from being crammed in my bag for my commute means that I left it a long time until picking it up to read. Although with its setting between October 1636 and the following January, reading it in dark and gloomy December felt appropriate.
As someone recently pointed out – when a book becomes so ubiquitous as this one, or an author as well known as Stephen King or John Connolly, what value is there in a blog post / review. So this isn’t really a review – the book won amongst others the Specsavers National Book Award 2014, Waterstones Book of the Year 2014 and Jessie won Books are my Bag New Writer of the Year – what can I possibly add!
What I can do is say something about what to expect from the book – even having heard Jessie read from the opening I still wasn’t sure what it would be about.
Told in the present tense it’s the story of Nella, eighteen years old and arriving at her new home in Amsterdam, to live with the man she recently married. She’s an inexperienced country girl thrown into the heart of Amsterdam and the new husband she expected to greet her isn’t even at home. From this inauspicious start Nella has to learn to live in this strange household – with her sea-faring husband, his brusque sister and their two servants. Although maintaining his distance from her, Nella receives a gift of a miniature house, a replica of their own home, from her husband and in turn that leads her to find the Miniaturist who can help to furnish it. It is this Miniaturist who by turn baffles and inspires Nella – something between a spy, a prophet and a guide. In a house full of secrets and cut off from her family Nella needs all the help she can get.
A beautifully written book that immerses the reader in 17th century Amsterdam this was an absorbing, atmospheric and moving read.