Friday, September 5, 2014

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

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.

Hardcover, 416 pages
Published August 26th 2014 by Ecco

"But the problem is...those with no horizons want to pull yours down."

There are so many things that drew me to this book.

Locations, location, location - Amsterdam, it's off the beaten path.  Though I am Canadian, my parents and siblings were all raised there and I am always on the lookout for anything HF that I can get my hands on.  The author created scenes that I could visualize, reminders of a trip I once did and made me all the more anxious to go back again.  Add the fact that my mothers maiden name is also Brandt, well it was a given that this book was for me.

It's no secret that I love debuts and this one comes fully loaded!  Outselling JK Rowling is enough to raise ones expectation level!  It's based on a real cabinet and the author has really written a unique story that just drew this reader right in.  It was intriguing, with a wide array of different individuals, each character so different from the other, in their roles and personalities.

Taking place in 1686, Amsterdam was not just a wealthy city but a deeply religious one as well.  Nella is only 18 years old when she arrives in the Brandt household as a young bride, so many ideas and images of what her life would be like, only to meet with Johannes (again) who really does not share those ideas himself.  In fact he doesn't share a lot of things.  He is mysterious and aloft, which adds to the gothic feel.  His sister Marin, who welcomes Nella to the household in an unwelcoming manner and does not hide her feelings. 

When Johannes gift arrives things change and a new Nella emerges. The story takes off once the cabinet starts taking on a life of its own, Nella is no longer shy or reserved, but rather daring and inquisitive.   The writer has a pose that I like, rich details emerge about this time period and lifestyles in a way that kept this reader reading.
There are two different covers out there, I really like the UK one and that is what I purchased. I think there is just something kind of mystic and enchanting with this one.
"Freedom is a glorious thing.  Free yourself, Marin.    The bars on your cage are of your own making"

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