Every so often, a book will come along that is so beautifully crafted I just want to hug it, slink into its pages and reread them forever and ever. I become pretty antisocial, much to the annoyance of friends and family around, and consume the book whole, like a big fat juicy burger. The last time this happened was The Night Circus, which came into my life at the moment I needed escapism most. I wasn't necessarily looking to be swept away by The Miniaturist, but I'm reminded so much of that same, all-engulfing feeling, and the inevitable sore disappointment that all books have to end sometime.

Let me break down what's special about this book - it is a debut. And for a debut, the tone of voice behind the writing, and the pacing of the book is sublime. This is almost JK Rowling-esque in how well-versed and adept the writing is. I might be biased, but I think Jessie Burton's acting training has paid dividends in how well she has structured this book (gotta love a fellow acting grad!). Give it a chapter or two and the thin layers and veils of mystery surrounding Petronella Oortman and her story start to be lifted just enough to tantalise, only to reveal more intrigue. The whole thing is like some elaborate, twisty-turny episode of Downton Abbey, only set in Amsterdam, and with a lot more of a continental feel.

Its setting is another thing which makes the book so loveable - fans of Girl With A Pearl Earring, listen up. This has much of that Dutch charm, and Burton's writing really takes you to the country - her eye for detail is what makes her world really encompassing. She'll take you on canalside walks, into pastry shops and past merchants in the bustling trading town and port, all the while guiding you through the ever-winding narrative mystery which doesn't ever really let up until the very final few chapters of the book.

But at the heart of it, I can't help but talk about its main character - Nella. Without giving too much away, I felt truly connected to the narrator here. She's naive to a fault, young, stubborn, impressionistic, impassioned and feisty - she's basically an 'everygirl', and you naturally find yourself rooting for her, no matter how frustrating she can be. It's a credit to Burton's writing how believable she makes Nella, and her own care for the character definitely shines through. To think that Jessie Burton got the idea from visiting the Rijksmuseum and seeing the real Petronella Oortman's cabinet, a visual from which grew this entire story, gives you an idea of how deeply and intimately she knows these characters.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Girl With A Pearl Earring or The Night Circus, as this book enjoys that same romantic escapism, but also as a real page-turner and beautifully crafted piece in its own right. It has been my book of the summer!

Do you guys have any book recommendations for me? I loved this one so much, I don't quite know how to follow it!

1 comment

  1. oo the night circus is one of my all time favourites and i recently got this to read, i think ill bump it up my list.

    em @ www.afternoonbookery.com x

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