The Muse and the Miniaturist – Jesse Burton

Okay, I don’t like historical novels and those that pretend to know what it was like then or who felt what but The Miniaturist is different. It recreates a time and place in minute detail and you can smell it and sense it as well as enjoying the shifts and drama in the text. There’s mystery too and a gradual unravelling. It’s good. It’s a bit overwritten in places but in a sumptuous sort of way. Well worth reading.

I can understand why a lot of people don’t like it as well. The parallel narratives are either significant or accidental and you have to take that on board. And there are shifts in the narrative that, maybe, are not sufficiently developed earlier and many people would like a more resolved ending. If you can imagine that this is a Dutch master painting of the C17 which is being explored and re-imagined by the writer you might get where the book is situated. Even if it isn’t for you, this makes it interesting.

I enjoyed The Muse from the start. Jesse Burton writes well and Odelle’s story flows until without any explanation we are landed in Spain with some different people. That jarred a bit at the time but the rest of the book weaves the story that links them all. Maybe, by the end, there were too many links but they are elaborated slowly and dramatically so I think they worked. Spain is well described, perhaps the Robles siblings were a little too knowing and smart from the start, perhaps Odelle was lucky to be taken in by Quick since she looks an unlikely confidante for such a story but these are minor reservations. I enjoyed this read and like The Miniaturist it was palpably ‘different’. Recommended!

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