One of my favourite books I read last year was The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, which is a historical fiction novel set in Amsterdam in the 1600s. I loved the detail of the time – as it’s a past so different to the 19th and 20th century times we are so accustomed to. When you think that the potato hadn’t even reached Ireland at the start of that century – you start to wonder – what did people actually eat? And Burton recreated the world really well with lots of touches drawn from her research to make the whole thing feel authentic and real.
That book, has like a lot of book fashions, created a desire for more of the same and I was thrilled when Midnight Blue, a novel by Simone Van Der Vlught popped through my letterbox for review courtesy of Harper Collins. It has a gorgeous blue and white ‘china’ cover – a hint of what the story is about and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in and read. It’s set in 1654 and tells the story of Catrin who leaves her farm life and sets off a journey of discovery in the hope to escape her past and create a new, more exciting life for herself.
First off, it’s a very different book to the Miniaturist. It’s written in a really simple way – with short sentences, plain language and quickly moving through the plot. Within the first few lines you are told the backstory and everything moves forward at a rapid pace. I started to wonder by chapter two where on earth the book could go as so much had happened already.
But, that is of course, part of its charm. It tells a good story – it’s fast moving and an easy read. The book is a translation and has already been a massive hit in its home country of the Netherlands.
I enjoyed the simplicity of the story, learning about different parts of the Netherlands that I’d never heard of before, understanding how people travelled back then and what onerous journeys they were and wondering where the character’s journey might take us. I also enjoyed learning about the pottery industry and imagining where all the high value antiques we hold dear today may have come from.
I don’t really have any criticisms of the book, only to say that if you are expecting something along The Minaturist then you may be better taking up something more literary – with more complicated language or plot line. There was one character who we meet early on – a painter and the wife of her master, who I thought could have made for much more story – but she disappears pretty early on.
For me, it was quick, enjoyable read and a historical fiction nut, I loved the details brought in and how the characters appeared very real with the same needs and wants you would imagine our current generation have, only of their time.
A lovely little world to get lost in and great for a holiday read as it’s not bulky and easy to pick up where you left off.
Midnight Blue is published by Harper Collins. You can download from Amazon or pick up in all good bookshops. With thanks to Harper Collins for my review copy.