Jessie Burton’s debut novel was instantly met with huge success, leading it to become translated into a number of different languages and sold in 30 different countries. I was slightly sceptical at first, if not only because this is not usually the sort of book I would reach for. Four hundred pages later and not only did I prove myself wrong, but I would gladly recommend this book to the whole internet.
Set in Amsterdam in the late 1600s, our story begins with a young girl, Petronella, being sent off to live with her new husband as part of an arranged marriage. The story takes you through her journey into a rushed adulthood and is spiked with the mystery of ‘the miniaturist’, who was hired to furnish a dollhouse gifted to her by the estranged husband. Nella, as she’s known to the reader, begins to fill this exquisite house with miniature interpretations of the world she now finds herself in. There’s something inherently creepy about dollhouses, this being especially true of Nella’s own, which merely adds to the enigmatic atmosphere of the book.
Despite the obvious restraints on women of that era, the book has a strong feminist theme, with acts of rebellion and unconventional behaviour seen from all the female characters. The plot deals with a lot of modern day issues – racism, sexism, homophobia – and although this is fab, it all seems a bit forced. Despite being contained between a hefty 400 pages, you’re left thinking it’s all a bit too much, as if Burton has attempted to tackle more than the story can chew.
Regardless, The Miniaturist proved to be a worthy read. Enchanting and beautifully written, with countless twists and turns throughout, somehow leaving you with the feeling of not having truly grasped the actual meaning of the story until the very end. This is, ultimately, a story of love and betrayal – and a very enjoyable one at that.
Words by Hayley Lynes