Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The Miniaturist reigned supreme in 2014 and was a front runner for Goodread's Historical Fiction book of the year. Jessie Burton's novel takes place during the Golden Age of Amsterdam, a time when the Dutch were the top dogs of maritime trade.

Title: The Miniaturist
Author: Jessie Burton
Pages: 400
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Ecco
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating: 2/5

Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam-a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion-a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.

"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?

Review ** spoiler alert **
Compulsively readable and intriguing, but this was a 17th century soap opera.

Everyone was so damn dramatic with their fainting and legs giving out and crying and yelling and beating each other up. Emotions went from 0 to 100 in no time.

SO many life-changing events went down in a two month period for Nella. I mean: get married, move to a new country, pet disappears, being stalked by a "prophet", a different pet gets murdered, husband gets caught getting blowies from the delivery boy, servant runs away, husband gets arrested, making a business transaction that family's entire future depends on, sister-in-law's mysterious pregnancy, sister-in-law's secret affair, still being stalked by a freaky girl prophet, birth of niece, death of sister-in-law, death of husband. Do you know what notable things I have done the past two months? Celebrated Christmas, got the flu, and scored a sweet deal on a $35 extension cord at Staples on sale for only $4.99. This is a historical fiction book, but I like to at least think these events could be real. I just couldn't with this book.

This book also loses points due to animal cruelty because I say so. Killing off a dog to establish a psychotic character is fine (I guess) but don't have the dog get stabbed through the skull and then describe the choking and convulsions leading up to its death. Just no. I kept envisioning the dog's murder for the remainder of the book. I guess this is a matter of preference. Maybe an interesting book club discussion? And for the people who don't mind animal abuse because "it's just a work of fiction" you can kick them outta da club and reevaluate your friendship.

I was excited by the story of the miniaturist but with all the other happenings going on in the book, in the end, I felt like she kind of just fell by the wayside. Obviously her story remains cryptic and the author leaves it open to interpretation. Probably because the author has no freaking idea how to explain her. I don't think she was God. In meeting the miniaturist's neighbors and dad, I took away that she was a smart, nosy girl with probably some form of autism going on.

Additional book club questions
Are you just annoyed or really annoyed when sections of a book begin with complicated Bible passages that are so freaking irrelevant to anything having to do with anything?

Did Nella referring (more than once) to a penis as a "worm" make you dry heave at every male you saw for the next few days after finishing the book?

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