Make the Miniaturist your next read if you love historical fiction.
If you don't follow historical fiction, but you enjoyed Hannah Kent's Burial Rites, then this debut novel from Jessie Burton may well appeal to you too.
Why? It's a very pretty novel with strong themes and a beckoning mystery.
A strong sense of place (Calvinist 17th Century Amsterdam), questions of feminism and marriage, social mobility and questions of empire and trade. Alongside all this is the exotic allure and supposed savagery of the colonial Dutch outposts. Through the characters we see (and almost taste) the assortment of sweet biscuits and pastries, the meat and cabbage dinners, ceremonial feasts laden with seafood. We sample the cooking with sugar and exotic spices like cinnamon and cardamom ... spices that bring colour to this dour landscape and dark house.
I'd describe this book as a kind of 'Dutch Gothic'.
I loved the setting, the writing, the slow unyielding suspense but I did think there could have been a little more depth to the secondary characters.
The author was subject to a bargaining war and a six-figure advance, and it has since been sold into 30 territories ... and counting. Read the blurb from the publishers below and have a look at the extras I've posted with comments from the author on writing and the road to publication.
The Blurb from Picador
There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.
On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Only later does Johannes appear and present her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways . . .
Nella is at first mystified by the closed world of the Brandt household, but as she uncovers its secrets she realizes the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?
Beautiful, intoxicating and filled with heart-pounding suspense, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.
Jessie Burton's Website
Jessie Burton talks about her road to publication and publicity tour here
Interview with BBC 24 here
Review: Sydney Morning Herald
Interview and comments from a Jessie Burton's Literary Agent about what makes a great manuscript