I had a very hard time coming up with a review or a rating for this book. I was way over- annoyed by what I suppose I’ll call “history lite.” This isn’t really fair because I was a history major and have been a history buff all my life.
Burton featured a character with the same name as an historical person who lived in Amsterdam in the 1680s and this person owned an incredible dollhouse which survives in an Amsterdam museum. That’s pretty much where the history ends. (See my Notes 2 page – there are also photos and links there.)
Burton apparently encountered this dollhouse and her imagination was so titillated she set about inventing a whole life and story for her own Petronella, using precious little (or none) of the biographical history about her. Instead she simply used the domestic artifacts and language of the day, a reference or two to the East India Company and some – possibly heavily Biblical. It’s basically a household romance set in historical times.
But the book is written very nicely. 🙂 There’s some well-developed suspense. The characters are, for the most part, quite sympathetic (but villains will be villains). The “magic” fits without too much stretching at the old suspension of disbelief too far. “Nella’s” story is probably fine for a book directed very much at contemporary readers with their issues in mind.
I think if you enjoy Tracy Chevalier, Sarah Dunant, Karen Engleman and other historical fiction of that type, you’ll like this. If you’re more of an Umberto Eco, Hilary Mantel, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and Orham Pamuk fan you might not.