Book Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

This book definitely took me out of my comfort zone. Historical novels are not really my thing, but I felt that I had to read it. Two years ago my parents stayed with us over Christmas, and my Dad had obviously been told to behave. He was still very active, gardening and walking, and his mind was as sharp as ever. It was the last time that I saw him alive, as a few weeks later, on his 84th birthday, he went to bed early as he wasn’t feeling well and never woke up. What has any of this got to do with The Miniaturist. My Dad, much like me, always needed to be occupied, so he perused our book shelves and picked up this particular book, which he then promptly finished over the next couple of days.

My lovely wife enjoyed it and when Helen was about to donate it somewhere I saved it so that I could read it. Historical novels are not my thing, but I stuck with it, and took a few months of off and on again reading to finish it, but I am glad that I persevered.

So, what’s it all about? Set in 17th Century Amsterdam, among the traders and ship merchants, a young country woman marries a rich and successful trader. She is lost and tries to make a home although the servants and her new husband’s sister all keep numerous secrets. She is given a miniature replica of her new home as a wedding gift, and sets about decorating the interior. Apparently at the time these miniature houses were very popular. She finds an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways.

There are a couple of large twists in the book, the first one looking back probably wasn’t so unexpected, but it did change the whole dynamic of the main characters, shifting each person’s roles. I suppose that if I knew about the history of Holland I might not have been surprised by the ending.

Overall I’m pleased that I persevered and finished it, although I am not in too much of a hurry to read more historical novels. They’re just not my bag. Anyway I gave The Miniaturist 4 out of 5 on Goodreads.

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