This is the follow-up to The Miniaturist where we find the family still living alongside The Herengracht Canal in Amsterdam in a large house which signals their place in society. But within that place 18 years on, the family’s are slowly slipping down the social scale. Thea is now 18 years old and so has come of age and has fallen in love. She also begins to receive miniature presents through the post.
There is a theme of aging running through the book, not just for Thea, but for all of the characters showing how we conform more to society’s expectations and our own as we get older. If you have read The Miniaturist you can see how Thea’s desires for independence and to be herself mirror Nella’s at a similar age although now it just feels like Nella is constraining her and being inflexible against Thea’s desires. Their world is becoming smaller and smaller as they struggle for money and have to sell off their possessions to survive.
Thea does not turn up for an arranged marriage but runs away to Nella’s childhood home, draging Nella after her. And whilst Nella is reluctant to return, she realises that she has really only remembered the awful things that happened in the house and forgotten how beautiful it could be, how calm and reassuring it can be and how it can offer a sanctuary away from Amsterdam which does not have to be the centre of their world.
This is where the book leaves them, leading me to think that there must be a third book for three reasons. One, we still haven’t solved the mystery of the all-seeing miniaturist although I found that element far less threatening in this book. Two, the family are on the precipice of leaving their old life and tipping into a new one and we need to see if they can make this change successfully. Three, there seems to be a developing relationship between Nella and Mr Caspin the botanist and this feels like unfinished business. Also I feel as if the house has not yet provided its fortune.
I really hope these ends are all tied up in a third book although we may have to wait a while for it.