Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Miniaturist

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Published by Picador
1st January 2015
Paperback Edition

There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .

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.

The Miniaturist intriguied me before it was even published due to the Twitter publicity that it was receiving.  If my feed goes bonkers over a book, you can usually guarantee it's going to be a huge bestseller - and as usual, this has been the case with this book.  I got a copy initially via NetGalley but it was so badly formatted that my kindle did not like it at all so I bought myself a copy in hardback at the end of December and finally started reading it last week.

The premise is this: Nella Oortman, eighteen years old, arrives at the Brandt household as the wife of trader Johannes Brandt.  They have met only twice, and she has not spent any time with him since their wedding earlier that year.  When she arrives, she is met with disdain by her sister-in-law Maria, and the two servants Cordelia and Otto, but of her husband, there is no welcome, warm or otherwise.

Nella tries to find her feet in this exclusive part of the city, and when her husband finally returns home, she believes that her dreams of marriage and of her role as a wife will soon be fulfilled.  Alas, for Nella that is not the case, and Johannes remains as aloof as ever.  However, to welcome her and to give her something to do, he has purchased a dolls house, as a wedding gift, for Nella to fill - an exact replica of the house that they live in.

Nella finds the name of a miniaturist in Amsterdam, and commissions him to make some pieces for her house.  When they arrive, she is shocked and surprised to see that other items have been included in the parcel that she did not ask for.  Who is this man, and how does he know so much about the  Brandt household?

This is a fascinating piece of history as well as being a great story.  The dolls house in question is real and having read The Miniaturist I would love to go and visit it in all it's glory.  The social history aspect of the book was excellent and I really felt that Jessie Burton captured the atmosphere of Amsterdam with all it's sights and smells wonderfully.  The book has many mysteries attached to it, and of how society sometimes forces us to choose the way in which we portray ourselves to others, in order to survive.  An excellent debut and I look forward to Jessie's next novel.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

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