Review: The Miniaturist


Publisher Synopsis:

”There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .“

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.

My Recommendation:

This book has been recommended to me by a number of friends, who obviously know me well, for it has all of the ingredients of what I consider a great novel: an historical setting, a commanding use of language, originality, and tragedy.

In this debut, Jessie Burton creates a world like that of the doll house or cabinet given to the protagonist–the young, impulsive bride of a rich Dutch merchant. Nella has a stubbornness and curiosity about her that align the reader with her as she reacts to her new family, and we learn things as she does. The confusion about her circumstances, her husband’s treatment of her, and the unusual people who live in the house and town, along with the very high stakes that result when secrets begin to be revealed, make this novel impossible to put down. There are shocking moments and devastating consequences to characters’ choices, but Burton does what the best novelists do: she includes hope.

While there are some questionable contemporary feelings toward societal issues in her historical characters, Burton does manage to make them believable because of the humanity of those she represents, and through her intense research into the time and place. This is a book that begs to be discussed, so I particularly recommend it to book clubs.

If you enjoyed GIRL WITH THE PEARL EARRING, think of THE MINIATURIST as similar in region and tone, but with a serious edge. Prepare to be devastated in the best possible way.

Have you read this? I’d love to hear what you think.


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