Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Miniaturist (by Jessie Burton)

This novel got a rave review from Entertainment Weekly, but what really sucked me in was the title and premise. It's about a young bride in 17th century Amsterdam who has a pet parakeet and who has a mysterious connection with a person who makes miniatures. Miniatures, parakeets, and Amsterdam: It's like Jessie Burton looked into my soul. 

(Spoilers below, for those reading this in a feed-reader.)

I found it to be mostly an excellent read, one of those hard-to-put-down reading experiences. The beginning of it is very Rebecca, which is a fun echo. And I did love reading about some of my favorite things. One quibble is that it doesn't, to me, feel as historical as it could. There are some fascinating historical details, but the way themes like race and homosexuality are handled feels a little too 21st century and unrealistic for the time period.

The biggest problem for me, though, was the ending. Neither the parakeet nor the miniatures make it, so that was slightly depressing. Oh, and a bunch of characters die tragically too. The book's biggest problem, though, is the handling of the miniaturist. What's happening with her is the book's great driving mystery, and it's never resolved. "Oh, her name is also Petronella!" is ultimately meaningless, especially since Petronella isn't the only person getting these miniatures. So the ending falls very flat.

This makes it sound like I disliked it, and yet there are enough things I enjoyed about it (the character of Nella first and foremost) that I would still recommend it.

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