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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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url 2016-01-30 04:46
The Minaturist
The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton

Hi everyone

 

I have finally got my post up for The Miiniaturist you can read it over at Readlearnandshine.blogspot.co.nz or easier yet click this bloglink.

 

I enjoyed this book.  It is different than what I expected.  It had characters that I enjoyed and some that just, plan annoyed me.  Who else enjoyed this book?

 

Happy reading

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review 2015-10-02 03:56
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton

Read by Kim A - Story of 19 year old Nella sent to Holland to be married to a wealthy gay merchant. Taboos and secrets throughout the family. The miniaturist of the title is sending eerily accurate and prescient items for Nella's wedding gift - a replica of their home. Nella holds the family together and redeems them to an extent. Novel had potential but didn't meet it.

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review 2015-09-28 15:20
Fascinating but not entirly satisfying
The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton

The book starts with the funeral of an unnamed but, according to the narrator, unpopular person as observed by an unnamed woman who, after other attendees have left, leaves a miniature of a house at the grave before deciding she has to leave.

 

When the story proper start it is 1686, about three months prior to the funeral described in the prologue and what we get of course are the events leading up to that hasty funeral, be it they’re no longer narrated from the same perspective. The full story comes to us courtesy of Petronella Oortman – Brandt, who arrives in Amsterdam to join her new husband, full of hopes and dreams only to soon discover that reality doesn’t live up them. Nobody in her new family is exactly who or what she expected to find and it’s only a matter of days before her expectations are drowned in realities and secrets.

 

The gift of the miniature house is strange in and of itself. Nella would rather welcome her husband to their wedding bed – as much as the idea scares her – than be given a toy. But as soon as the miniatures to fill the house start arriving it becomes clear to both the reader and Nella that something mysterious is going on. The person making the miniatures seems to know things about the inhabitants of the house on the Herengracht which nobody should be able to know. What’s more, the miniatures are foreshadowing events in a most macabre way. It isn’t long before Nella is torn between obsession and repulsion, both of which are fuelled by the fact that the miniaturist remains elusive while apparently present everywhere.

 

What follows is a rather sad tale of what happens when social mores are in conflict with personal preferences, especially during a time in which religion more or less determined how people could and couldn’t behave. It is more than that though, this is also the story of Nella’s coming of age – as her new life falls apart around her ears Nell has to learn new skills, find new strengths and reassess many of the preconceptions she grew up with.

 

For me personally the most fascinating part of this book was spending time in Amsterdam in the 17th century. So much and yet so little has changed. You could walk through Amsterdam’s city centre today with this book as your guide and the canals and roads would still be more or less as described on these pages. I also learned one or two things about the history of Amsterdam I hadn’t been aware off. For example, I didn’t know that in the past personal addresses were distinguished by markings on the houses – such as a sun for the miniaturist.

 

I also liked that the story deals with topics that were (and for some still are) controversial up until recently. I don’t want to go into exactly what those topics are because that would give away too much of the story, but it was fascinating, if difficult, to look at them from an historic perspective.

 

I find myself a bit torn about the way language was used in this book. While the formal way in which the story was told made it feel more authentic and period appropriate, it also became a bit overwhelming. And while I personally had no issues with the use of (old) Dutch words and terms in the book, I can easily imagine that it might be tiresome for non-Dutch speakers to have to refer to the glossary at the end on several occasions.

 

I did have one huge issue with this book and that’s the way it ended. While this book was well written, mesmerising and intriguing, the ending left me unsatisfied. I always enjoy it when a book allows me to embroider on the story after the last chapter. This book however left me with too many unanswered questions. I had no idea what the future might look like for any of the characters or how they might be able to pull any sort of future off for themselves. Not to mention that the main mystery in this book never really got resolved. Again, it’s impossible to say more without resorting to spoilers, so I won’t, but it did leave me feeling disappointed.


My overall verdict therefore is as follows. This was a well written, well research and fascinating story, although not always easy to read. It also left me feeling somewhat short changed by the time the story ended, which is a shame because until that point this book was heading for a solid five star rating.

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