This was a much hyped book. In my temporary Christmas job at Waterstone’s I was told to push it at every customer who came to the till. Is it worthy of such hype? Not exactly. It is a beautifully presented hardback; the ideal Christmas gift.
The novel is a sweet and light confection like the delights one finds in the bakers of Amsterdam. The story is set in the seventeenth century. Nella, just eighteen, arrives from the country to marry a rich Amsterdam merchant, Johaness, who ignores her completely. The household consists of Johaness’ bitter and cold sister, Marin, a female servant and a black manservant, Otto, from the tropics. Nella is given a dollhouse to amuse herself. The mysterious miniaturist sends pieces to fill the dollhouse whose fashioning suggests a rather too intimate knowledge with the goings on of the house. Nella becomes intrigued and endeavours to find out the identity of the miniaturist. Johanness’ dark secret is revealed to all and tragedy befalls the household.
The book is delicately written, Nella is a likeable and relatable heroine and the characters are well drawn, However, I couldn’t help feeling that something was missing. The historical details of seventeenth century Amsterdam were fascinating and this was the main interest of the book to me. More could have been made of this. The story had the feel of a Victorian melodrama and was perhaps too flimsy a tale for the hype the book received. I yearned for more depth. The novel felt slow to start but did involve me in the maelstrom from the middle onwards.
Worth reading but I am puzzled by the five star reviews and glowing publicity.