I often feel like there are some books that you might hate and not finish when you’re at one stage in your life but then you come across it when you’re in a totally different headspace, and you’ll end up liking it.
This is one of those books.
I’ve bought (and returned) The Miniaturist before and my first opinion was that it did not deserve all the hype that it had when it was released. Overrated may have been my opinion at the time. I could not get past the first chapter. So I eventually gave up and went back to my local bookstore to exchange it for a romance novel. This was 3 years ago when I was still starting to expand my horizons as a reader.
Fast forward to the present day and I’ve not only finished but I actually liked it enough to give it a review. The Miniaturist is set in 17th century Amsterdam, a time when women are seen as property of their husbands and gender equality was a totally alien concept. Nella Oortman is a childbride who has arrived at her new husband’s home and is finding it a little overwhelming to adjust.
Johannes Brandt, her husband, is an enigma; a wealthy merchant who is wrapped in secrets, a mystery that she is desperate to unravel. The rest of the household – Johannes’ sister Marin, Cordelia the maid and Otto an African slave – are just as mysterious.
At first I thought this book would be like Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca; certainly Marin Brandt bore a chilling resemblance to Mrs Danvers. At the start of the book she was a chilly figure who was so tightly controlled that its no wonder she’s unmarried. But I think as the book unfolds, we get to see another side of her and she became one of my favourite characters. Its hard to explain why without giving spoilers, but suffice to say that she embodies the desires of every woman who has ever felt oppressed. We all just want to be free to choose our own future and our own destiny.
As to The Miniaturist, she became something of a guide and teacher to Nella at a point when she needed it the most. After she literally stumbled into the family secrets, I think it almost became a comfort for her to believe there may be someone pulling the strings. The miniaturist seems to see into the future and she sends Nella miniatures that either represented something that had already happened or portends events that will come to pass in the future. Its unbelievably creepy.
Who is this person? Why does she have such an intimate knowledge of what goes on in the Brandt household? Ultimately, I think she was the catalyst for Nella to grow up, something she badly needed to do in those volatile times she was living in.
If I have one critique, its to say that the author could have given this a better ending. I think it was a bit anti-climactic and leaves us with the central question not really being answered. I know some readers prefer that, some readers like ambiguous endings, but I certainly don’t. However, The Miniaturist was an atmospheric, compulsively readable book and I would gladly recommend it to readers.
Guest contribution by Miss Blabbaholic. This blog is about music, travel, life in London but mostly its for people who share my passion for books.