The Miniaturist is written by Jessie Burton and was first published in 2014 by Picador. The book has received many awards although it is first novel from the author. It seems that the pictures in the author’s website is the continuation, the missing pieces that we never got. It is beautiful and I don’t know, if it is for London (environment I know) or the miniatures in the pictures, I just love the pictures in the site!
This book is about Petronella who has been married to a merchant and is moving now to live her adult life in Amsterdam, but after she arrives, she still feels like a child, because Marin – her husband’s sister takes all the pride in leading the household and even Nella’s life. Her marriage is nothing she imagined and after receiving her wedding gift from Johannes, she feels even more offended and childlike. Nevertheless, she decides to use it and orders miniatures to complete the gift and that is a moment Nella’s life becomes complicated – although she asked only for few pieces, she received a lot more of them, all screaming of knowledge about what happens in the inner walls of her house. She begs the miniaturist to stop, she tries to confront him, but never catches him and the miniatures keep coming, foreseeing the future of Nella’s new family.
Although this is Jessie Burton’s first novel, it feels like she has perfected her writing skills for years and years. I don’t know, if it is Oxford’s fault or her own perfectionism, but it is wonderful to read. It took me a moment to get into the style and setting, which is Amsterdam, but, once I got there, I enjoyed the writing a lot. And honestly, I don’t remember, when was the last time, I read a book that’s been written in past few years that would have been written so professionally. Although the story itself didn’t capture me as much, I cannot stop praising the writing. Remember, how I said that the Throne of Glass seemed so inexperienced? This was exactly the opposite!
The story itself was a mystery with many secrets and some of those are very predictable, some are not so much, but the main secret of course remains – who is miniaturist, why is he doing this and how does he know. The story unravels us all the secrets and all the problems that come with them, but the last one and the most important one is left in the middle of the air because although most of these questions regarding the miniaturist are answered, the feeling that is left after reading the book is, that the questions are not answered. The answers author gives touches subjects that have never been mentioned in the book before and doesn’t earn the reader’s trust – I don’t think I was left satisfied with the explanations Mr Wildelbreke gave us, but at the same time, I don’t feel like I need much more which is slightly controversial.
The characters of this book were very different from each other, but I had trouble to attach to any of them. I guess, if I had to choose one, then my favourite would be Johannes, he was made too modern for the time and that appealed to me as I usually feel too vintage for the time. Nevertheless, his mistakes (and not his secret) seemed too foolish for the character, for example that he was seen outside his warehouse, that he doesn’t lock the doors and so on. It is not at all good places where he should feel free to do everything his heart wants, especially, if he is hiding such secret. There were other things that obviously didn’t go together with characters and seemed like an easy exit for the author – to get out of the problem she’d created.
I don’t want to go in each character as I felt that I don’t know them well enough in this book, but I want to mention that Petronella developed too fast. I almost felt like she is Scarlett O’Hara in the way she evolved – from a child to a grown woman who has to take responsibilities she never thought that she would have to. Although the characters couldn’t be more different, I feel the the evolution is the same and what Scarlett did for years and years, Nella did in four months. Because of the excellent writing, I didn’t actually feel like it would bother me inside of the story – it felt natural, but at the same time, outside of the story – if I had a logical and objective look – it was impossible for a silly girl from a country turn into a smart and quick woman Nella became in only four months. I agree that it might be possible in a short period of time, but I didn’t see, how these particular events could do it for her – she was pictured as strong before the events took place. As well as Nella’s love for all the inhabitants of the house seemed impossible, as they didn’t really get closer or friendlier before the last week described in the book, if anything, Nella should’ve hated them.
At first I was very surprised at the setting of Amsterdam, because why? Just why? And later in the book, it became clear, why it was Amsterdam, but still I felt that there could have been a bit more descriptions and not just street names, the author could have given us a feel of the 17th century Amsterdam as well as descriptions of clothing. I liked Amsterdam really a lot although there wasn’t much described of it, I guess with the idea was enough for me. But as the miniatures came I many times checked the cover of the book, to see for some details and was a bit disappointed that the miniatures on the cover are not exact as described, but the cover was the main thing that gave me the clothing and feel of the century. If I would read it without seeing the cover, I would never imagine the setting like it is on it.
This book touches slavery, racism, gay rights and many topics that just makes you understand that something is wrong with the world, if we are still hearing about slavery and the fears of being sold, if we still hear about prejudice and bans for gay people to get married, we know that the problem is still here. We have moved from the point that is described in the book, but we haven’t gone very far, which is painful to see – how slow change happens and how slow people are to accept the things that cannot be changed (‘it’s something in his soul’ as Burton describes in her book). It just makes one wonder, if we actually have gone as far as we seem or we are just pretending that we are.
While reading The Miniaturist, I couldn’t help but wonder, that this book could look better in a film and I think that Tim Burton could pull the right strings and me it into a masterpiece.
As I said before, I like the mystery, I liked the story, but I found it hard to connect with it. I didn’t really have a character to follow and it wasn’t a page turner for me. And because of that I gave it three stars on my goodreads page, but still I think it is a very professional book and classic lovers might like it, I think it is an adult mystery book, which touches subjects that should have long been resolved and forgotten , but unfortunately their not. As Orvel once said – all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than other, and that still stands correct.