Sunday, 24 April 2016

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

An outstanding ,433 pages long novel by Jessie Burton  demonstrates to  us  why we are blessed to have a habit of reading.A strong story told in a way that each chapter closes with  a feeling of suspense, raising moral issues  entwined in the course of life, a young woman coming of age as a feminist  and bringing alive  and with accuracy   the ambience and history of  late seventeenth century  Amsterdam  and its people , make you want to read it without break.Yes, Jessie Burton has  put into it everything  -  marriage ,emotions , suspence , love , greed , power  justice , betrayal , revenge , secrets , openness,  honesty , corruption , magic , art  prophecy,imagination  and  death.It is a rare debut novel.It is a compelling page -turner.
               The book is based on  the life of real Petronella  Oortmann , her doll's house and her husband Johannes  Brandt , set in Amsterdam .Her short name is Nella .The novel shows how 18 year old Nella  grows in four months  into an independent , mature woman  , ready to face life with confidence , despite all shocks   and challenges that this world gives to her.The book opens with newly married Nella  coming to her husband's house for the first time.She is poor but now married to a rich merchant Johannes .The rich husband  brings her a costly wedding gift of 3000 guilders.It is a cabinet  , showing the complete house of Jahannes.She does not understand the purpose of this kind of gift , and inwardly feeels insulted .But still ,she tries to decorate it with  lute , and other miniature toys which she orders from a miniaturist .The miniaturist is fond of sending her extra things and some messages like "Every woman is the architect of her own fortune."Being young and inexperienced, and due to some coincidences , Nella begins to believe  in the prophetic powers of the miniaturist .
                           Though Johannes is one of the best merchants of Amsterdam , evoking envy  from the less successful ones, he has tried to build the economy of Amsterdam .He has independence of character and stands tall .He has  married Nella on the insistence of his sister Marin whom he loves .He has a loyal maid Cornelia ,and has got a male help Otto who being black is not accepted in Amsterdam society.His concept of love is that" it is hard to love a person  you know too well.When you have truly come to know  a person , when you see beneath the sweeter gestures, when you see the rage and the pitiful  fear each of us hides-then forgiveness is every thing .We are all in desperate need of it ."And everybody is not so forgiving .
                      One  day ,Nella goes to see her husband in his place of work .There she finds her husband in a compromising position with a younger man Jack Philips.One  family acquaintance Frans  Meermans  , who has grudges and envy against Johannes  , comes to know from Jack  about  sodomy , and they   report against Johannes report to authorities.Nella comes to know of it through Meermans and tells Johannes to escape .But authorities arrest Johannes  when he is escaping on a ship , and put him in Stadhuis prison .Nella meets him in prison .She spends more time with her husband in prison than she has spent in the whole of their four- month marriage.Nella finds  some depth in Johannes and tries to bribe witnesses and prays hard for his release.A comaradeerie and sweetness develops between them , but it is too late.Johannes is sentenced to " punishment to be weighed down at the neck and to be drowned in the sea, this Sunday at sundown".
 Nella realises  that she was actually distracted by the cabinet and the minaturist.She realises that  she has to hold herself  on her own .With this , she smashes and destroys everything connected with the miniaturist and the cabinet.She goes to the Pastor Pellicone and succeeeds in bribing him so that he permits  her sister in law Marin to be buried within city walls, despite being tainted  as a relative of Johannes.Johannes's sentence is executed on Sunday.
                 Nella is left alone , without husband and his sister.With  the help of Cornelia , she decides to begin her life once again ,with a hopeful tapestry with"no one is to weave it but ourselves".
                 I recommend you to read this  extra-ordinary  debut novel.