Title: The Miniaturist
Author: Jessie Burton
Ranking: 8.0 out of 10.0
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00HW7IPEW/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
Summary: One day in 1686, 18-year-old Petronella (Nella) Oortman arrives at a grand house in the wealthiest part of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin life as the new wife of successful merchant Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his severe sister, Marin. Later Johannes appears and presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways sometimes foretelling things to come.
In late 1686, provincial 18-year-old Petronella (Nella) Oortman arrives in Amsterdam, the new bride of wealthy merchant Johannes Brandt. Greeted by his frosty sister Marin, it’s not the best of starts, and it gets progressively stranger as Nella’s husband avoids consummating their marriage and presents her instead with an extraordinary wedding gift – a miniature replica of their own home - which he invites Nella to fill with miniature furniture at his expense.
Dolls’ houses are wonderfully creepy, atmospheric curiosities, and Nella’s particularly so. Humiliated, she applies to a miniaturist to furnish it. And the parcels start arriving: exquisite Lilliputian items that somehow mimic, foretell and comment upon the events unfolding in the house. Nella becomes increasingly obsessed with the cryptic almost-presence of the miniaturist, uncertain if she is prophet, guide or spy.
Thanks to its Calvinist burgomasters, the people of Amsterdam eat their sugar in secret, and are forbidden to own dolls or any other replicas of the human form. Not exactly a fun place for a marzipan lover with a cabinet house in need of tiny new inhabitants.
What follows for Nella is a series of puzzles. How does the miniaturist she commissions know so much about her and the other members of the Brandt household? And what are the secrets that Johannes and Marin are trying to hide?
Nella, it soon becomes apparent, has a boldness more of a 21st-century teenager than a 17th-century one: outspoken, determined, and proactive.
The Miniaturist has a singular and vivid setting, and it should capture your attention. There are several strands, some concerning the major characters and others minor ones such as Cornelia, the maid, or Otto, the former black slave, or Jack, the delivery boy; not forgetting Agnes and Frans Meermans, Johannes' business partners and eventually his nemesis; and one that joins the two sets together.
Further reading suggestion: The Muse - https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01BF6LQNW/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1