What Am I Reading This Week?
Our Sex & Relationships Editor Brenda tells us about the book she’s been reading this week: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton.
There’s just something intriguing about The Miniaturist. A stunning debut novel by Jessie Burton, it is set in the evocative period of 17th century Amsterdam. Images of murky canals, layers of swishy skirts of ladies walking on the cobblestones and intricate shady dealings between traders set the scene of the novel: of a religious city on the verge of greatness.
The book tells the tale of a young Nella Oortman, whisked away from her small town to marry an eligible, but distant trader called Johannes Brandt. Nella soon discovers that she truly isn’t in Kansas anymore, and her struggle as a fish out of water is further intensified by the scathing judgement of Johannes’ sister Marin, who truly reminded me of Mrs Danvers in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, a handsome, scornful woman destined to act as the antithesis to young, naive Nella. Other well-developed characters include Otto, Johannes’ man-servant who is charismatic yet shunned in society due to the colour of his skin, and Cordelia, the cunning servant with secrets of her own.
The plot thickens when Johannes purchases a cabinet-sized replica of their house. It towers, it intimidates, and the minute details of accuracy sparks Nella’s curiosity. She begins to contact a local miniaturist to order more items for her new doll-house; a way for her to pass the time whilst pining for attention from Johannes. Nella is simultaneously alarmed and exhilarated when she begins to receive unsolicited packages and mysterious notes from this miniaturist. A stranger who seems to be able to sculpt the truth from such a distance, the miniaturist is a phantom who has an eerily specific perspective into the private lives of the Brandt household and all of its hidden secrets.
The novel is masterful. It is remarkably readable, and the pace of the mystery is well-calculated. I feel my heart suspended, hanging in my chest as I read the Miniaturist, the tension that Burton creates in the book makes you catch your breath. It has been called “Downton Abbey if written by Hilary Mantel” by the Guardian, and I cannot find a more accurate comparison. The heady world of murky waters and betrayal makes a very exciting read indeed. I cannot wait to find out how the many threads unravel in this novel on my daily commute into work, and I oblige you all to join me and do the same.
What have you read this week? Tweet @EatMoreCakeUk