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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 2017-02-03 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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text 2016-05-11 15:04
Library Haul
The Thorn Birds - Colleen McCullough
The Dark Rose - Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
The House of the Wind: A Novel - Titania Hardie
The Far Pavilions - M.M. Kaye
One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd - Jim Fergus
The Miniaturist: A Novel - Jessie Burton

So these are the books I got at the library sale two weeks ago. 

 

I'm reading the first book in the Morland Dynasty series right now, so finding the next book, The Dark Rose, at the sale and buying it was a no-brainer. I'm really liking the first book. There are 34 books in the series, following one family from 15th century down through WWII. The idea intrigues me.

 

The rest were all books I'd been meaning to read at some point but never got around to doing so.

 

My ever growing TBR...

 

I need new shelves!

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review 2016-02-18 02:44
The Miniaturist
The Miniaturist: A Novel - Jessie Burton

In 1600s Amsterdam, Nella agrees to marry a rich merchant. She looks forward to living in the city and being a wife and mother. However, when she gets to Amsterdam, she discovers that her husband wants nothing to do with her. He’s rarely home, and he leaves Nella in the care of his ultra-religious sister, Marin. The only affection he shows Nella is when he buys her an empty dollhouse. At first, Nella is offended by the gift: she isn’t a child and doesn’t need toys. But, when she decides to furnish the dollhouse, she meets a mysterious miniaturist who seems to know all of the secrets that her husband and his sister are hiding.

 

The setting of this book is fascinating and well-researched. I’ve read a lot of historical fiction, but I’ve never read a book set in Amsterdam in the 1600s. Nella lives in an extremely religious society. Doing anything un-Christian can get a person executed. The characters constantly need to keep up their pious appearances to avoid arousing the suspicion of their neighbors.

 

I love how this book confronts issues that are still problems in modern-day society. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but the book talks about race, sexuality, religious, and gender discrimination. It shows how far we’ve come since the 1600s and how far we still need to go.

 

My favorite character is Marin. She’s so unlikeable at first, but by the end of the book, I loved her. She’s complex. She’s hiding a lot of secrets and using her religion and bad temper as a shield to protect her family. Marin is probably the most intelligent character in the book. She’s practically running her brother’s business, even though she’s not allowed to because she’s a woman.

 

I like Marin, but I have problems with the other characters. Nella is a fairly bland protagonist. She doesn’t have a lot of personality, and I don’t understand her loyalty to Johannes. She’s married to him, but she doesn’t really know him. They barely interact for most of the book. Then, when Nella attempts to get to know him, she discovers that he’s doing something that goes against her religious beliefs and the laws of her city. I understand why she wouldn’t want him arrested, but why does she suddenly become so loyal to a person she barely knows? He doesn’t even seem like he’s that great of a person. He has a family to support, but he’s careless about his illegal behavior. If he gets caught, his family could lose everything. I just don’t get Nella’s loyalty.

 

I also had a hard time getting into the author’s writing style. The writing is a bit clumsy, like it’s trying to be formal, but it isn’t quite succeeding. My copy of the book also has noticeable typos. The typos and writing style slowed down my reading enough that I got annoyed.

 

It took me a long time to get interested in this story, and I had some problems with it, but I’m glad that I didn’t give up on it. I did briefly consider quitting because the beginning is slow, but by the halfway point, I was totally hooked. I couldn’t put it down. The mystery of the miniaturist is compelling, and the family has so many secrets that I had to keep reading to find out what Nella would uncover next. The crazy ending helped make up for the slow start, and I would love to read more books set during the 1600s.  

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