Off My Bookshelf: The Miniaturist

Here she is a puppet, a vessel for others to pour their speech. And it is not a man she has married, but a world

Off My Bookshelf is a new monthly feature where every month I take a book off my bookshelf, one that I've had a for a while and put it on the top of my TBR because it's all too easy to get caught up in the shiny new releases; older books need some love too.

This month that book was The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton which has been on the shelf for longer than I can remember and that I'm not entirely sure why it took so long for me to get to. I think perhaps because the only other person I really knew who had read it was Helen and she didn't rate it. It's funny actually because when I told her I was reading it her immediate response was oh. you'll love it.
Anyhow, my pal Sarah read it recently and was absolutely raving about it to me and so I decided to just go for it. And here we are.

Loved it.

Jessie Burton, it seems, is an absolutely delightful writer - she's got a book out later this year, actually, that I am now ridiculously excited about - and this book is a delight. I mean I love me some good historical fiction and this one, set in 17th Century Amsterdam and following 17 year old Nella as she marries a man she doesn't know - who turns about to be gay and who buys her a doll's house, I guess to sort of try to make up for the fact that he'd rather be in bed with a young Englishman than his wife ticked so many of my boxes.

I loved 17th Century Amsterdam; I loved Johannes, trying to make his fortune selling sugar, and his struggle to be any kind of husband to Nella; I loved the whole story of the miniaturist and the parcels of little figures that were sent to Nella seeming to predict the future; I loved how slowly things panned out, a bit like taking a nibble of one of the sugar loaves and letting it dissolve slowly on the tip of my tongue. I was so hungry for more but also so glad that I was being forced by the pace of the story-telling to savour it. A bit like how I allow myself one Lindt chocolate before bed and let it melt slowly in my mouth.

She has always thought that kindness was an active thing. But the not doing of something, an act of restraint -- could that be kindness too?

It was a magical story and I was lost in it, I thought about it when I wasn't reading it, wanting all the time just more more more and I was sad when it ended. I could have stayed in Nella's world for so much longer. I am, forever, such a sucker for pretty words and this was beautifully written.

It wasn't perfect, and I won't lie there were things that niggled.  I struggled a little bit at times with Nella - this is 17th Century Amsterdam, her husband is a sodomite and her sister-in-law is pregnant with the child of a black slave - Nella takes all of this largely in her stride and throws herself wholly into running he husband's business (almost more successfully than he does) all whilst some random person is predicting terrible things in her future via little dolls and her world is collapsing around her ears and somehow, sometimes she just didn't ring true as a teenage newly-wed in the olden days and wow but that was such a shame because I was so in love with this book.

What are we all chasing? Nella wonders. To live, of course. To be unbound from the invisible ropes that Johannes spoke of in his study. Or to be happy in them, at least.

Also you've got this plot, this divine, complicated plot that you stick with because it will all be worth it for the resolution, but the resolution never comes and whilst Sarah loved the ending, I find I am still, several days later, super frustrated by how much was left unresolved.
I like my loose ends tied up please Jessie.
The only answers to the questions are more questions and I was left unsatisfied, frustrated, hungry for more and oh, just a little confused.

That said though, I wanted to live in this book, it made me hungry for jacket potatoes and gingerbread, it made me want to travel back in time and jump on a ferry to Amsterdam and there were so many many passages that I wanted to underline and quote back. Such a good read. I'm sorry it took me so long.