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?
Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.
(Skip to the end of the post for the SHORT VERSION of my review)
August, 2014. I walk into my local Barnes and Nobel and am stopped in my tracks by a “New Releases” display table. There is one obvious ”winner” to this display: The Miniaturist.
Shiny hardcovers of it are stacked left and right, on top, below, and facing me on one of those nifty display stands. It feels like Christmas in July. The cover reminds me of a snow globe and Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy plays in my mind.
In short, this book looked and sounded magical.
I have never ”seen” the potential of a gripping book synopsis wasted more than it was with this book. I have never been more compelled by a historical fiction novel and as let down as I was with this book.
Let me stress that this is NOT the author’s fault when it comes to my expectations. I just didn’t get what I wanted or what I expected from this novel going off the hype and the book description… and that really bummed me out because I wanted to love this book.
I haven’t read any historical fiction set in Amsterdam that I can recall, and I think the author did an adequate job describing what 17th century Dutch life was like. Even if she did go off the deep end in some instances.
But none of it necessarily led up to ANYTHING.
The back of the book boasts that it is “steeped in mystery” and that it is a “compelling page turner”- all things having to do with plot. Since the plot is being emphasized in this book over the characters, I really expected something stellar. But there wasn’t anything stellar or worth all the page turning at the end.
The experience was like watching M.Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense but not getting the twist ending.
I needed SOOOO MUCH MORE from this book. Yes, I got all the themes of oppression, hypocrisy, romantic love, platonic love, retribution, etc, etc. But none if was very deep, really. You could see most of the situations wrapped up in these themes coming from a mile away .
I do have to give the book credit for keeping me enthralled enough to want to know how the characters were going to react to certain situations.
Now, maybe my disappointment for this book is all my fault, and it doesn’t permit me to give this book a low rating. But I felt so completely underwhelmed and to be quite honest, pissed, by the end of it that I had to give it this rating.
The longer I kept waiting for the book to ”get good”, the more my common sense told me to throw the book at the wall. ESPECIALLY after a couple of the more graphic, unnecessary scenes.
The likability of this book was inconsistent to the point of frustration.
Pacing was alright.
I was compelled to keep reading page after page until I realized there would be no ”Big Reveal” or discovery.
The ending was beyond disappointing.
Some descriptions were unnecessarily and grotesquely fleshed out. I didn’t like it.
This book was supposed to be very atmospheric but I thought it was meh.
To end on a good note, I did like the author’s syntax and writing style, and her characterization was thorough and intriguing.
Aaaand, just for fun:
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