Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

This is an interesting piece of historical fiction. It is 1686 and Nella (short for Petronella), at 18, finds herself on the doorstep of her new husband, 39, who she hardly knows, but who is a wealthy merchant in a bigger city who is supposed to help her life become new and wonderful.

However, of the many surprises Nella is confronted with when she arrives at her new home, one of the most confounding is how her new husband does not visit her bedroom and does not treat her as a husband typically treats his new wife. Instead, his gives her a replica of their home -- a "distraction" -- for Nella to furnish.

Nella seeks the services of a miniaturist to assist her and requests a few intro pieces. In return, the miniaturist sends Nella the requested pieces, along with a few unrequested pieces that seem to be exact replicas of items in Nella's new home. Does this miniaturist know the family? Has he been in the house? How did he create such perfect replicas?

Thus begins a subtle mystery as Nella both tries to stop the gifts and cannot wait for the next gift from the miniaturist, each new gift providing insight, prophesy, or explanation of happenings in Nella's increasingly complicated life.

We also meet her husband Johannes' sister Marin, an unmarried woman living in the house who almost seems more master of the house than Johannes or Nella, the "manservant" Otto, who has been educated and is more free with his relationship than Nella has ever seen before, their maid Cornelia who is not only fresh and forthright but, again, is more forward than seems proper for a maid. Add to that their "old friends" the Meermans and mysterious Jack Philip who seems to be more than the miniaturist's delivery boy, and the story has a complete and robust cast of characters, which take us through a short amount of time.

It was an enjoyable read. At times, it reads quickly and at others, Burton seems to relish the word as she slowly moves through the narrative. Overall, a satisfying read, filled with intrigue, tragedy, mystery, and love of many kinds.

Definitely recommend.. maybe a nice winter read with a cozy lap blanket and a warm fire.
FOUR of five stars.

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