Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Miniaturist: Book Review | The Small Desk

The name Petronella Oortman conjures up a character with a cold personality, a wealthy and distant member of the aristocracy, even the evil stepsister, yet she is anything but. The Miniaturist sees Nella transform from a shy, inquisitive girl, married to one of Amsterdam's richest merchants to a woman in charge of a household, in charge of her own life.

As a wedding present from her husband Nella receives a direct replica of her marital home and employs the talents of a miniaturist to furnish it, hence the title of the book. However despite creating some of the pieces Nella requests, the miniaturist also surprises her with prophetic creations. The way Burton describes these pieces makes you visualise them instantly, even the way they feel when held in the palm of your hand.

Despite the title of this book, its core direction is about Nella's transition from girl to woman through a series of exceptionally extraordinary events. I would go into more detail but I don’t want to spoil it for you.

The text is written so beautifully; it flows and is easy to read. The words are so effortlessly sewn together in perfect syntaxes that feel as if you are reading the prose of a literary great.

I know it is cliché to say but this book is a page-turner, with each event you are peeking around the next page scared of what is to come, but staggered by the incredible descriptions of some pretty morbid events.

Initially I purchased this book to see what all the hype was about. The book was titled ‘Waterstones Book of the Year’ and ‘Specsavers Book of the Year’ in 2014. I must confess, I didn't even know what it was about when I bought it! I read the blurb and was a bit concerned; I'm not normally a fan of reading novels set pre 1900, let alone the 1680s. In order for people to read this without any knowledge of 1680s Amsterdam, Burton has cleverly crafted the main character, Nella, to be so naïve about so many things that certain words or references can be explained through Nella’s dialogue with the other characters.

At first I was worried that I wouldn’t remember the names of all the characters. There are eight main characters and I found this a little daunting at first but I quickly remembered all the names, even if I did have to check the blurb a couple of times!

When I finished this book I was completely satisfied with the ending, but sad to say goodbye to Nella. I sat and reflected upon the book for a while, thinking how lucky I was to have been able to enjoy this text over the past few weeks.

I’ve heard Burton’s next book is about an artist… put it this way, I’ll be pre-ordering it as soon as it is written.


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