Book review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
October 10, 2014 17 Comments
From the publishers: “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.”
The Miniaturist: What I thought
In the 17th Century, one of my ancestor’s extended family lived in a house nearby to where Nella lives. The Golden Bend in Amsterdam, then, and still now, is one of the most expensive parts of town. Nella is very young and only knows she should be married so she marries Johannes, a rich merchant, who was still single at 39 years of age.
The book follows Nella getting used to Amsterdam, the house, and its residents, including a maid and a black servant. When she gets a doll’s house, she needs objects to go inside it. She finds a miniaturist who can make these objects. But she never gets to see this very skilled man, who seems to know everything that is happening in the household.
We read this book for my book group and most of us loved it. One reader would have liked some more mystery with the miniature objects. This was a big part of the story, but it was never explained properly. Also, it would have been nice if Nella had noticed something wrong with an object before something odd happened, so it would be more of a thriller. Now, she noticed afterwards that the objects had changed when the relevant person or object had changed in real life.
A lot of themes are explored in the book, maybe too many. The story is about people not fitting in their society and how society is punishing them for this, while at the same time committing many a social crime behind closed doors.
I found this a quick and engaging read. Not all issues are resolved at the end, but it didn’t bother me much.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (good to very good)
Number of pages: 386
First published: 2014
I got this: bought at book shop
Genre: historical fiction