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review 2018-02-12 19:06
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton,Davina Porter

Historical fiction isn’t my typical genre but we chose this one for our local book group because it sounded mysterious. And boy was it ever mysterious! It wasn’t perfect but it was full of darkness and secrets that come back to haunt and those are always my favorite things to read.

Set in Amsterdam way back in 1686, 18 year old Nella arrives at her brand new husband’s estate and receives a cold welcome from his sister Marin and their maid Cornelia. Otto, the manservant, is the only one who doesn’t seem pissed off that she’s moving in. She is set up in a lavish room and left to wait for Johannes, the husband she knows not at all. When he arrives he doesn’t give her the time of day either. What is up?

“Her husband who speaks in all tongues save that of love.”

When I first began this book the setup felt a little Rebecca-ish with the gorgeous mansion, broody husband and creepy staff but as things went along it wasn’t a Rebecca clone at all but something else entirely. Nella soon realizes that she isn’t going to have the typical marriage she’d been dreaming of. She keeps waiting for Johannes to show up with his “rising rod of pain” as her mother enticingly described it, haha, and ask her to perform her wifely duties but it doesn’t happen. She’s both relieved and disappointed. Instead she settles for his companionship when she can get it and busies herself with settling into her new life. To keep his wife occupied, Johannes gifts Nella with a cabinet filled with a miniature version of their home and goes about his merry way, doing whatever it is he does. She orders some pieces for the tiny home from the local “miniaturist” and when they’re delivered the package contains extra pieces that alarm Nella. They are pieces that only someone intimately familiar with the home would be able to create. Nella writes a scathing letter of complaint to the miniaturist and more pieces show up. Who is this person and why are they doing this?

This plot bit was the least satisfying part of the book for me. Nella sets out to investigate and surprisingly this question is never fully answered to my nosy satisfaction which was weird seeing as it was the name of the book. It kind of fizzled and died a slow death but I guess it made for a beautiful cover? Fortunately the story had enough intrigue and other goings-on that it really wasn’t a big deal to me in the end. 

These people have many secrets and they all come back to haunt Nella’s new family. She must find strength against the most unexpected twists of fate and the utter disappointment of her new life. I’m being purposely vague because I know people hate the spoilers. I hate the spoilers. I’ll just say that Nella has to grow up quick and deal with some serious shit. She does so with grace and some humorous thoughts. At least I found many of them humorous. On prickly Marin and her lack of a husband she thinks, “Perhaps there was no man stout enough to take the vicious battering.” That just made me laugh because it was so accurate in the moment. But don’t let this fool you into thinking this is a light and airy book. It is dark, it is pretty bleak and there are several scenes that may haunt me for months.

“We can do nothing we women. All we can do if we’re lucky is stitch up the mistakes other people make.”

The characters are richly detailed and nuanced. Even the people that I disliked early on became fleshed out and believably flawed characters. They make plenty of mistakes and pay dearly for them. So although this is not my usual genre of choice, it turned out to be an engrossing and richly detailed story of secrets and little mysteries that took many unexpected turns I didn’t anticipate. The women also totally steal the show and I recommend it if you like secrets and drama and can stomach some brief moments of terrible violence. 

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text 2018-01-30 15:54
Reading progress update: I've listened 60 out of 780 minutes.
The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton,Davina Porter

I am reading this for my next IRL book meeting. It's not my typical genre but so far, so good. It has a gothic feel. A young woman marries a man she doesn't know and travels to his luxurious home only to have a very cold reception. Hmmm, sounds a bit like Rebecca. I am intrigued.

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review 2017-05-23 14:01
"La musa", de Jessie Burton.
La musa (Novela) - Jessie Burton

Primera novela del año que va directa al Salón de la Fama (desde "Cinco esquinas" de Vargas Llosa nadie había tenido ese honor).

No desvelaré mucho, pero la trama se desarrolla alrededor de un cuadro, y en dos épocas distintas, 1936 y 1967. Hay de todo: intriga, arte, amor... de todo. 

Muy recomendable también de esta autora "The miniaturist".

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review 2017-02-03 00:00
The Miniaturist
The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton Full review on my blog, Caffeinated Bibliophile.

I went into this with fairly high expectations, but unfortunately I wasn’t as enthralled as many people seem to be.

I found most of the characters difficult to like or sympathize with, and I only really liked Cornelia and Hanna. Johannes was a character I think I could have liked, if we’d gotten to know him better. Nella was annoying for me, and I found her character most unbelievable, particularly how she handled the revelation she received about her husband. Marin was mostly just awful. She treated Nella horribly, and I had a difficult time believing she could have conducted herself the way she did during the time period not just with Nella, and the way Marin continued running the house even though it was technically not hers to run, but the way she handled Johannes's business and such, but given what little we know of Johannes, who knows. The Meerman’s were atrocious, and frankly I hope they pay for the things they did. The same goes for Jack. I can’t really comment on Otto, because he wasn’t focused on much, but I think I would have liked him. Some of the interactions were so unbelievable, or even ridiculous. I just couldn’t imagine it really happening the way it was written, if these characters were real. (Maybe I have a more difficult time with suspension of disbelief or something, or maybe this book just wasn’t for me.)

This book was really difficult for me to stay interested in, at least for about the first half. I think it took me a little over 2 weeks to read the first 200 pages, but then I finished the second half in one evening. I kept expecting there to be more to the story than there was, and I don’t think anything surprised me. I wish it had kept me guessing, but it didn’t.
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review 2016-11-16 23:29
Dual time periods and a fabulous painting ...
The Muse - Jessie Burton

I enjoyed Jessie Burton's first book, The Miniaturist, and couldn't wait to read her new novel, The Muse. Both were enjoyable reads, but I did miss the magical realism element from The Miniaturist, while The Muse had a more satisfying ending.


The Muse is split between two time periods, Spain in 1936 and London in 1967.

The Spanish Civil War is brewing when teenage Olive Schloss arrives with her German art dealer father and English socialite mother. They move in to a fabulous old Spanish finca and are immediately approached by Isaac Robles and his sister, Teresa, who are searching for work. I loved these complicated characters and they effectively created a link to the approaching war.

Olive is an accomplished artist but her father is unaware of his daughter's talents and so it is Isaac Robles who he encourages to paint. One painting from this era finds its way into the 1960s story and to the Skelton Gallery, but its history is unknown and its provenance questionable. Is it a valuable missing gem from the past and if so, how did it find its way to the gallery??


Thirty years later, Odelle Bastien and her friend, Cynth, have left Trinidad and come to London to find work and improve their fortunes, but so far, a job in the Dolcis shoe shop is the best they have achieved. Then Odelle stumbles into a job as a typist in the Skelton Art Gallery and she realises that she has fond her niche. Her boss, Marjorie Quick is a fascinating and elusive character who Odelle longs to understand, while Quick, in her turn, takes Odelle under her wing and eventually confides in her.


The narrative weaves effortlessly between the two eras and drew me in with several unanswered questions. This is the type of book that always holds my attention, but The Muse had the added advantage of being beautifully written as well. 

If you enjoy dual era, historical novels I'm sure this one will be a great read for you too.



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