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Book Club | Watersones Book of the Year 2014: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

I bought The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton on my Kindle months ago then forgot about it. I’ve been stuck in my former village in Mauritius with no WiFi so have been reading instead. This book published in 2014 was the subject of a publishing bidding war at the London Book Fair in 2013 and took over 4 years to write. The Miniaturist was also awarded the Book of the Year award by Waterstones and Specavers. Not only did this book come backed with a lot of awards, and hype but it also came with one stellar front cover. But as the saying goes; never judge a book by its cover….

To stalk what I read on Goodreads, click here. 

The blurb:

"There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed…"

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office-leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella's world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist-an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes' gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand-and fear-the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

The short story is I read this book in less than a day. Jessie Burton is a brilliant storyteller; she drew me into this book in no time, and I got to the end and I was literally like wtf; I don’t know what happened; a super anticlimax moment to what was a great build up. It left me so damn confused!

Nella (Petronella), a young 18 year old arrives in Amsterdam to start her married life. In her new household is her husband, her sister in law, a female maid and a black servant.  Once she arrives however she finds her husband has no interest her. He gifts her bespoke dollhouse one that’s identical to their home. To furnish it she hires the services of a miniaturist, and she places an order for certain items. However she receives more than she asked for, and these items she realises tells the future (which she realises after the events have taken place). At first she’s scared but then she begins to takes solace and looks forward to receiving more items. At some point she catches her husband with another man and realises that his lack of interest in her is because she’s the wrong gender, but she decides to stay anyway despite abhorring his homosexuality. At the same time her husband is supposed to be selling sugar for a frenemy that used to be in love with his sister but now married to someone else, but for some strange reason he doesn’t want to sell it. Then he’s caught in a homosexual act, accused, trialled, found guilty, sentenced to death. In the meantime his unmarried sister is found to have been concealing a pregnancy, has the baby, she dies after childbirth. We find out that the baby is the black servant’s and not the frenemey’s as we were led to believe.

Nella’s character is a bit of an odd one; you don’t really connect with her. She spends literally all of 15 minutes with her husband in the whole book, yet is strangely concerned about him., her husband is gay at a time when being homosexual is punished by death and he is openly having relationships without a care, everyone is obsessed with sugar in this book, her husband doesn’t actually want to sell the sugar for some unexplained reason.

And the main thing, we never find anything out about the miniaturist. We don’t know how she knows anything about the family, how she knows what will happen in the future (the miniatures are sent before events unfold), why she sends the miniatures to Nella (or to the other women that she sends them too, as we find out she does in the end). The book is titled “The Miniaturist” yet we never find anything out about her. Everything about her is left unexplained. We find out she was also called Petronella. What is the significance of this? What’s the point of the dollhouse? The whole book could have been written without the dollhouse to be perfectly honest. The idea of the miniaturist was a redundant plot device that had no real bearing on the story. It feels like Jessie had a stroke of brilliance with this idea but then didn’t know what to do with it, and  400 pages later I don’t know either *throws hands in the air* .

So Jessie Burton is a great storyteller, and I read this book within a day, but it was a damp squid by the time I got to the end, and by then I was just confused and I had to Google it because I thought I missed a chapter accidentally and asked a friend for clarification. So there.

 Left confused by this review? That’s how this book has made me feel! Have you read this book? Is it on your to read list? Read anything awesome lately? Leave your recommendations below.

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