**spoiler alert** A more accurate title for this book would be "The Suffering of a Straight White Woman Surrounded by Queer and Black People".
I'm not**spoiler alert** A more accurate title for this book would be "The Suffering of a Straight White Woman Surrounded by Queer and Black People".
I'm not going to rate this book because I can't rate it fairly. On one level, it has to be a good book because it's elicited a very strong emotional reaction from me.
On the other hand, I fucking hate it and wish I hadn't read it. Right now, having just finished it, if I could go back in time, I would stop myself from reading it. This book was relentlessly depressing. RELENTLESSLY. How the fuck is this a story about empowerment? Yes, the main character is less timid at the end than she is at the beginning, but we don't end on a note of strength and confidence. We don't end on a note of her new self-assuredness. We end on the fucking execution of her husband for being gay. There's some wishywashy blather about threads in a tapestry and whatnot, but I hardly count that. The things that she manages to accomplish don't actually do anything to stop her life from snowballing into complete fucking tragedy.
Also, let's jump to her husband, and how deeply passionately eternally I hate his storyline. I am so fucking sick of reading about murdered queer people. I'll admit, it's a personal thing and not an objective problem with the book, but his execution is what tipped me over the edge from not really liking the book to actively fucking hating it with an intensity I will probably not feel after I've slept some.
But I will still hate it, because not ONLY was he executed for the crime of being a gay man, he is a gay man who basically has a heterosexual romance without the sexual part. We get hardly any details about his lover — a lover who is portrayed as crazy and evil, who murders his favorite dog and then falsely accuses him of rape, leading to his execution. We hardly see him as a gay man, but we do see him fall into a kind of love with his wife — the platonic ideal of love, minus the desire for sex. It basically slaps the tragedy of being gay on top of a heterosexual romance.
We also, of course, have the lone black character, Otto, whose systemic oppression is only ever used to show the emotional impact on the white characters around him: the maid who gets so angry at the people who say nasty things about his race; the lover who struggles with how to hide the mixed-race chlid she's going to give birth to. (She dies during childbirth, by the way.) We at least got to know the gay husband fairly intimately, to see him as a well-rounded person, while Otto remains, to the end, a complete enigma. He is definitely one of the most poorly fleshed-out characters in the story — but hey, at least he lives!
Finally, The Miniaturist aspect was, from what I could tell, completely pointless. At no point did I understand how the main character found comfort in getting creepy stalker art; her "revelation" that the Miniaturist had helped her get control of her life seemed idiotic and out of nowhere. The Miniaturist was just FUCKING CREEPY.
More importantly, the miniatures didn't really seem to drive forward any part of the plot. You could remove just about every mentions of the miniatures from this book and not only would the plot still hold together, I think it would be stronger. The time wasted on the stupid fucking miniatures could have been spent on the other characters that I actually cared about. Maybe Otto?