Wednesday, September 10, 2014
THE MINIATURIST by JESSIE BURTON
This novel has received tons of publicity and praise, and rightly so. It attracted my interest because it is set in 1687 in Amsterdam. The history it tells was fascinating to me. For instance, I knew trade guilds originated in The Netherlands but was surprised to find that there was a stock exchange in Amsterdam as early as 1687.
The main character is Nella Oortman Brandt, bride of Johannes Brandt. He married her in her small town away from the city and promptly sailed away on business. She therefore arrives at her new home alone and is not very warmly welcomed by his stern sister and two servants. At merely 18 years old Nella feels lost and alone, and even when her husband finally comes home he pretty much ignores her. He makes no attempt to consummate their marriage. Meanwhile his sister rules the household with a strict Calvinist hand.
Society in Amsterdam is controlled by the church, but funded by trade. Johannes has a huge warehouse full of goods he brings from far away lands. As successful selling goods as he is in buying them, he is quite wealthy and his house illustrates this fact. As a wedding present he eventually brings Nella a sort of miniature house in a cabinet on a large base. It is a copy of their house. When she begins to order items to furnish it, the miniaturist seems to know everything that goes on in the house and also see into the future. It grows eerier and curiouser until Nella is freaked out. She tries unsuccessfully to meet the person. There is a woman who stares at her in public, but Nella can never catch up to her to find out why.
It turns out the Brandt house is full of secrets that Nella learns one by one and that require much of this young woman. I loved and admired Nella Brandt. You just can't help cheering for her as she stands up to adversity and as the people in her life grow to love her.
Source: Ecco Imprint, HarperCollins