Book Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton


On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office-leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist-an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand-and fear-the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.  –     from Goodreads

My Rating:  ★★★

My Thoughts (may contain very minor spoilers):  

The story is told with a slow-burning atmosphere of mystery, intrigue and secrets hidden within this house and family into which Nella is drawn. As Nella’s new life is gradually revealed to be rather different than she first expected, the mystery surrounding the enigmatic miniaturist, who knows such intimate details about the house and it’s inhabitants, and appears to have eerie foresight about events concerning the family, bulids up gradually.
Nella is naturally curious about the identity of this person who knows too much, and there is an almost magical element to the stranger’s talents, in that an unsent request is fulfilled with a new miniature figure, and real events become reflected in the miniatures already in Nella’s possession.
The narrative weaves this uncanny foresight with more routine elements of daily life, but ultimately the magical promise becomes a little unsatisfying as certain mysteries are never fully resolved, which is a shame after all the potential. At first I felt the story was a little slow-paced, but it gradually picked up and became really interesting.

The trials faced by Nella, and the realities she must face within her marital home – the difficulties of doing business, running a home, concealing certain realities and the position of women in society (they didn’t particularly have any real authority) make her grow as a character as she confronts a situation she never envisaged, and obstacles numerous in nature.
Nella’s sister-in-law Marin is another interesting character; outwardly so guarded and unmovable, she eventually reveals a strong, true heart capable of such great depth and determination. and this drives the story on to quite an enjoyable conclusion which kept me reading on to the very end.

The writing is good, especially reflected in one scene where Nella, realising that she may have some degree of power in this house, frees her caged bird Peebo, and allows him to fly free, unhindered around the house. It reflects the way Nella herself feels and little touches like that stuck with me whilst reading.
There were some moments which struck me right out of the blue, which I never anticipated, and I always enjoy something with a twist, so that was good.

I did quite enjoy this book, but would have liked a little more detail where certain characters were concerned and I wished the more fantastical elements of the story were addressed far more.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

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