M: (The) Miniaturist by Jessie Burton - book review

06 May 2016

“Growing older does not seem to make you more certain, Nella thinks. It simply presents you with more reasons for doubt.”
Jessie Burton's debut novel is unquestionably alluring and complex with a host of characters and a strong base of research by the author; and, set in 17th century Amsterdam, it is a beautifully written peephole into the world at to the time. The Miniaturist, in all intents and purposes, is an intriguing mystery set in an unusual historical context, and should have been plain sailing throughout, if the international reception to the book is anything to go by.
However, a part of my mind was constantly questioning small details as the story progressed. The main character, Petronella (Nella) Oortman is peculiarly worldly and a seemingly determined feminist that manages to travel unchaperoned through Amsterdam without being noticed, and while that may be nothing to pause on in a 21st century novel, Nella's background and place in history makes this piece of her character a little out of place; and that, combined with the many many elements of the story that seem to be almost like a soup of plots bound in one cover, decreased my love for this book ever so slightly. It seemed like Burton was trying to add in one too many elements to a single novel, and while she manages admirably well, at times it can be a little overwhelming. The characters, a little too flat and only 'outwardly' formed for my liking, were still mysterious and compelling, especially Marin; and while the revelation at the end of the novel seemed incongruous after such a detailed and intricate storyline, overall, The Miniaturist was a polished and elusive debut boasting layers of secrets just waiting to be unfolded that I would definitely recommend.

7 comments:

  1. Oooh, now I want to try this! I kind of only had vaguely thought about it?! BUT FEMINIST BOOKS AND AMSTERDAM = CAIT NEEDS. Although that is disappointing about the characters and the overwhelming factor. :/

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    1. Yeah, looking back at it now, I think it was very underwhelming most of the time, but in another way it was also so intriguing and skilful. IT'S JUST SO CONFUSING.

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  2. Yes a lot of people have felt that The Miniaturist aimed a bit too high when it came to the feminist aspects of a novel set in the 17th century! Yet there's also been a lot of hype over its characters, and apparently the feminist part was super awesome regardless of the historical context.
    I'm split. Should I succumb to the hype?

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    1. Yes I definitely think it aimed too high, but at the same time it was definitely a good book, just not worth the excessive hype. I'd say go for it, everyone has different tastes in books so you might absolutely love it!

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  3. I bought this after Ruby from Feed Me Books Now recommended it (her word on books is gospel in my life), and you've made me want to read it even more! I didn't realise it was set in Amsterdam O.o

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  4. Amsterdam is my number one place to visit and any book that is set there I just have to read! I'm sorry that you found a few tidbits that didn't fit with the setting. That can be really irritating. Although it is set so long ago it is hard to say truly what life was like then. That's why I love books from another time, another world. It is fascinating entering a new world that isn't your own. One of the many gifts books give us. ^_^

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  5. I love books set in other countries and I love Amsterdam, but this book sounds kind of... messy? I'm not sure. Do like that cover, though. Great review :)

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