The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

I’d had The Miniaturist kicking around on my Kindle for eons, but might never have gotten round to it had it not come up as my reading group’s book of the month. Despite hearing glowing reviews of Jessie Burton’s work from my brother (whose opinion I generally trust, unless he dislikes something I adore), historical fiction just isn’t my genre of choice.

Luckily, I was able to get past this and largely enjoy Burton’s story of marital secrets set in 1680s Amsterdam. Having visited Amsterdam for the first time last year, I found the writing geographically evocative, and the surroundings rang true even from across the centuries. The day-to-day life of newlywed Nella was less accessible. Married to a wealthy merchant at her mother’s behest, Nella moves away from home and settles into the strange, insular household of Johannes Brandt, his sister Marin, and their two servants.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the story is the titular miniaturist. Nella receives a perfect replica of her new home as a wedding gift, and begins furnishing it with pieces purchased from a mysterious local crafter. As events unfold, the pieces begin to reveal secrets hidden within Nella’s own home.

I had intended to make The Miniaturist my holiday read this year, but actually got through it so quickly that I finished it in the hotel en-route to the airport. At the time I apparently rated it 4/5, but writing this review some six weeks later, it strikes me that the book left little lasting impression on me (save for a particularly graphic description of a woman soiling herself in labour, which I doubt is the sort of legacy anyone would care to leave.) Fans of the genre will probably enjoy it more, but The Miniaturist is still undoubtedly a solidly crafted piece of fiction.

[Read from 4-5 June 2017]

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