The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Set in Amsterdam in the 17th century – a time where the Church was law and where certain norms were expected to be upheld. Nella is a newly married young woman, but in many ways is still a girl. She arrives at the home of her new husband and finds herself in a household quite unlike what she imagined. In fact, her husband proves elusive and she is determined to win him over. But things are never quite as they seem and you could say that this is a coming of age novel as Nella grows up and finds her place in her new household.
Up until about halfway through listening to The Miniaturist I didn’t like they story. But, I found myself caught up in the story and wondering what was going to happen. It reminded me of The Crucible, but if the accused were actually guilty of their alleged crimes.
The prologue gives a tantalizing picture of characters as yet unnamed and who we have not yet met. It is in the future, or dated after the first chapter. One of these characters is Nella, our protagonist. Another is the Miniaturist. I think this is quite clever and demonstrates some skill – like Nella is offered glimpses of her future in the handiwork of the miniaturist, we as readers are offered a glimpse of the future in the author’s handiwork.
In the end, I enjoyed the story. It deals with interesting themes, of religion, homosexuality, human nature, secrets, and love. There were aspects of the text I felt uncomfortable with, especially the hints of voodoo and the likes. As a Christian I think it bothered me perhaps more than other readers, but overall I think we are meant to be made uncomfortable. Prophecy, wherever it comes from, is of the supernatural, and the motives of the Miniaturist are unclear at best.
I also found the portrayal of the Church interesting. Unfortunately it is probably very accurate historically and fits all too well with my belief that Christians are their own worst enemies, especially when they represent God as purely a god of fire and brimstone and judgement. I love Nella’s quote when talking to Pelicorn, the key personality in the church. He says to her, “You have all of my pity girl,” and she replies, “Yet none of your mercy”.
It’s an interesting read and will keep you turning pages to the very end, trying to match up the characters in the prologue with those in the chapters.
Rating: 2.5/5 – I found the voice a little irritating to listen to for too long and I think that definitely influenced by enjoyment of the book, even though I think it’s great for authors to narrate their own books. It might be better to read as a text rather than listen to!