by Jessie Burton
Reviews came out largely, solidly favourable and despite a few quibbles and this made for a lively discussion. One glaring issue emerged around the title and the character referenced by the title. This was raised via Jim’s mail and came up again at Birchalls – the least developed character (if at all) was the title character. In at least one sense this really held back appreciation of the wider novel and the use of the revelations being delivered through the miniatures a block to any other narratives.
Those really liking the book cite the depth of character development and the very rich and evocative atmosphere that was created by the writing. The plot line was well-paced and the various devices such as the miniatures, what they represented and how they came, went and displayed a useful one. Fergal questioned whether the miniaturist and what the character and the contribution actually made to the story and whether we might have enjoyed as much without it.
Others found issue with that lack of fleshing out of the character of the miniaturist and this leading to some frustration with the story as a result. There was also a feeling that despite depth of character development there were some leaps in changes to characters not being consistent with the events being recounted. Case in point – Nella who emerges from the backwoods and is suddenly a fully formed feminist (Fergal). It clearly read and engaged very different amongst our group.
Joe added that the miniatures and the miniaturist were much like a horoscope that merely reflected things already there – that we see if we want to – and that people were looking to find anyway or want to attribute an external force.
The other overarching theme theme of puritanical hypocrisy was well captured and really created a full appreciation of the Dutch Republic of the time. This was tribute to what came across as a particularly well researched work that captured an historical essence – especially regarding the VOC concurrently with appearance in the Silk Roads.
The further challenge of the Kindle and the glossary at the end of the book raised a bit of an issue as access to what it contained would have been useful in line and we don’t yet turn to holding finger to a word for more information naturally – yet. The glossary unknown at the end until one encountered it rendering it all but useless.
I think it’s interesting to note how the Kindle is encouraging a very fixed linear read (much more than the physical book it supplants) despite the affordances, potentials and promises of the digital turn and of hypertextuality.
So how did it rate:
Jim – 6.5
Brian M – 6
Mike – NS
Brian C – 6.5
Joe – 8
Shawn – 7.5
For a very respectable 7.
We had the following non-fiction reads suggested for September:
Second Hand Time – Svetlana Aleksiev (Joe) (which I can’t seem to get through Amazon.com)
Endurance – Alfred Lansing (Joe)
Alexander Hamilton – Ron Chernow (Fergal)
And so our read for September as via poll at the pub is Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow which is the inspiration for the hip-hop broadway musical of the same name. Intriguing. The music which Fergal encourages appreciation of via Spotify is fascinating.