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The Minaturist - Jessie Burton

I heard a bit of this when it was Radio 4's book of the week and read a few reviews, so thought it was worth a shot. It is based around a young woman in 1686 Amsterdam who finds herself married to a man who apparently has no interest in her and whose sister is, shall we say, odd in the extreme. Nella finds herself drawn further and further into the secrets of the people with whom she finds herself living, not least through the activities of a miniaturist whom she contracts to make items to fill the elaborate dollhouse that her husband buys her as a weirdly inappropriate wedding gift. Cue things going 'orribly wrong.

I enjoyed reading this book but I'm not entirely sure I found the experience terribly satisfying. It's written with precision, and there are some lovely images and moments, but I did occasionally think 'well, this is trying just a bit too hard, isn't it?' It's exploring some significant social issues of the historical period, but does so in a way that feels... a bit modern? A bit too nineteenth century in its historical placement in combination with the period Dutch setting? I don't know. I think part of the problem too is that the conceit of the miniaturist is a brilliant one with lots of potential, but never quite feels as if it's sufficiently developed. The thread gets followed through but I wanted more out of it. I'm finding it a bit hard to articulate quite why, but yes. The book was an enjoyable read, but I find myself oddly disappointed at the end of it.

Kushiel's Chosen - Jacqueline Carey

Second of the Kushiel series because a bit of smut plus political intrigue is actually surprisingly good reading material. And there's a lot of political intrigue in this. We also get to see a lot more of the world in which the series is set than we did in the first book - there's plenty of travelling around, some good stuff in their equivalent of Venice (Venice!), an equivalent of a Greek blood-cleansing cult (classical reception!) that's drawn fairly heavily in some ways from Mary Renault (but I'll forgive that, it's a good place to draw on), and pirates. Yay for pirates. I am going to read the third book because I want to know how this finishes, and while Carey may occasionally offer terribly stilted bits of writing, it's all sufficiently gung-ho and rip-roaring that I don't really mind. It's comparatively demanding/sophisticated light fiction in an alternative history universe, and if there's the occasional line which sounds incredibly hackneyed, it makes me laugh rather than growl.
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