The Miniaturist tells the story of Nella, an 18 year old Dutch girl from the country who is married off to a rich and successful Merchant from Amsterdam. The novel is set in 17th Century Amsterdam and paints an interesting picture of life in the European city. Nella's arrival at her new home is somewhat frosty, mostly thanks to her husband Johannes' sister Marin. She finds it difficult to settle in, not really knowing how a new wife is supposed to behave, and it doesn't help that Johannes seems indifferent to her arrival.
As a wedding gift, Johannes gives Nella a cabinet that is a miniature replica of her new home. He tells her that she can furnish it with whatever she chooses, but Nella is a little offended with the gift thinking that Johannes is implying that she is young and immature. She finds a 'miniaturist' in the city and commissions them to make some pieces for her dolls house, but when uncommissioned pieces soon start arriving that are a little too personal, Nella begins to fear that someone is watching and taunting her.
My favourite character in the book was Johannes' sister Marin. She was a cold and unforgiving character, but I felt like there was a lot below her harsh exterior that could have been explored. She was a fantastically complex character, and I felt both in awe of her and scared of her. I would have liked to have heard some of the story from her point of view, or at least have another book about her life before Nella arrives.
Nella was a less complex character, but her naivety made me feel very protective of her. There were a lot of moments in the book where I didn't want to stop reading as I didn't want to abandon Nella to her fate, I just couldn't leave her! I often stayed up until 2am reading as I couldn't put it down.
I won't spoil the end of the novel for you, but it was an ending that I found heartbreaking for all of those involved. By three quarters of the way through, you can tell how one of the characters' story is going to end, but it is still devastating when it does happen.
The Miniaturist was the sort of book that I couldn't put down, and even when it was finished I didn't want to leave the characters. It was like parting with a great friend and knowing that you would never see them again. I was engrossed from start to finish, and think that this is a well deserving winner of the Waterstones Book of the Year for 2014. I would probably list this as one of the greatest book I have ever read (and I don't say that lightly), and think that it should be nominated for every literary award there is.
I've got my fingers crossed that Jessie Burton writes a continuation or a prequel to the novel.
You can buy a copy of the The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton from Waterstones
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