I would love to tell you that I loved this ‘million copy bestseller’ but truth be told, I didn’t.
It took me until nearly half way through the book to start getting into it and enjoying it, and then by the time I was enjoying it, it ended in a disappointing way – in my opinion.
Set in Amsterdam in the 1680s, the story is about an eighteen year old country girl called Nella, who embarks on her new life as wife to the successful and wealthy merchant Johannes.
Johannes is distant from the beginning and her new household are just as cold as her new husband. She is shortly after presented with a wedding gift from Johannes, a miniature replica of the house the she has moved in to. Affronted by the gift – she is after all a wife now, not a child who needs children’s toys to be kept occupied with – she anyway decides to employ someone to make some items she desires for the miniature.
What she is sent is uncannily realistic, so much so Nella believes the miniaturist to be spying on them.
She soon begins to see patterns between what is going on in the house and items the miniaturist sends. Is the miniaturist trying to help her, warn her or mock her? She will do all she can to find out.
I will go so far as to say this story would have actually been so much better without the bloody miniaturist, or miniature house. It didn’t push the story along, if anything it made it far more complicated than it needed to be. The story – completely ignoring those bits – was compelling and continuously broken by the random miniaturist offshoot. Obviously I’m in the minority with this thinking, what with it being an international, million copy bestseller and all, plus all the quotes at the beginning of the book singing its praises. Plus…the flounce. There was too much flounce.
“Her blood singing notes so high she doesn’t think them possible…”
“She feels her grief bloom, an unwieldy rose dropping its petals too quickly.”
“…her lungs, a tiny pair of bellows calling to the room.”
Stuff like this, although some may create images in my head, generally it takes me away from the story. I find it distracting. For example, comparing grief – someone breaking down and crying – to a rose losing its petals; I would rather be shown how she was affected by the grief she was feeling, not just given a metaphor that doesn’t really mean anything.
However, I did say at the start that I got to a place in this story that I enjoyed, and this is true. The main story where the secrets from inside the house (the actual house not the miniature) are revealed is exciting and I loved it.
I just wish there was less flounce, less miniaturist (read: removed completely, I don’t see the point in it being in the story AT ALL) and then I think it probably would have hit the nail on the head for me. I wasn’t enthralled by the ending either but actually I’m not sure what would have made that better, just perhaps the removal of the miniaturist stuff would have been enough.
So. Would I recommend The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton? I’m actually going to say no. It was a thick book that should have been smaller and more concise, and though I will in truth be lending it to my mum to read (she likes period stories), I wouldn’t know who else within my close proximity of friends and family would want to give this a go.
Have you read The Miniaturist and think I’ve taken it all the wrong way? Or have you read it and agree with my thoughts? I’d love to hear what you thought of it.
Up next to read: Jubilee by Shelley Harris. This was a £3 special in Waterstones AGES ago and has since been sat on my shelf waiting for its day to come. Well that day has arrived, it is coming down from the shelf and going in my bag ready for my commute!
Until next time. x