Thursday, December 31, 2015

Suicide Reviews: The Miniarturist by Jessie Burton

 The Miniaturist 

Synopsis: 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 Marian.

But Nella's life 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's gift helps Nella 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 worshiped 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? 

Enchanting, beautifully written and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

Date Published: August 26, 2014
Published By: Ecco
Number of Pages: 400
Rating: 4/5

The Miniaturist is one of those books where I ended up reading a completely different story from what I was expecting. This seems to be happening a lot lately. (For my review of another unexpected story, see here.)

I was under the impression that Nella, a newly-married woman would end up having an affair with the Miniaturist, an artist who specializes in crafting miniature replicas.

Nope. Not even close.

Instead, The Miniaturist is a story of family secrets, gold, God, and betrayal. It's all very intriguing, actually, and I was pleased by the unique storyline. It has a bit of magical realism feel to it as well which makes the story all the more fascinating. Just who is the elusive Miniaturist? And just how much power does this mysterious figure have over Nella's life?

The Miniaturist seems to be well-researched and gives us a glimpse into 17th-century Dutch society. I loved how the author incorporated the infamous Dutch East India Company into her storyline. You might think the parts about trading and gold and guilds would be a bit dull but they're not. This is what I love about historical fiction - being able to travel back in time and get an idea about the way things were - and marvel at how much things have remained the same.

Jessie Burton writes beautifully, every sentence a polished gem. Her words flow like poetry, making every scene richer and more atmospheric. The vividness of her images helps to transport the reader even deeper into her world. Sights, sounds, smells, tastes - all are rendered so convincingly that I could almost feel the bitter wind of winter or taste the sugared marzipan.

If you're a historical fiction fan, or just have an appreciation for lyrical writing, I strongly urge you to give The Miniaturist a try.

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