Friday, 8 March 2019

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton


The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
First published by Picador in July 2014.

How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


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

On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Only later does Johannes appear and present her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways . . .

Nella is at first mystified by the closed world of the Brandt household, but as she uncovers its secrets she realizes the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?

Beautiful, intoxicating and filled with heart-pounding suspense, Jessie Burton's magnificent debut novel The Miniaturist is a story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

I originally put off reading The Miniaturist because it was so wildly successful upon its release and I hate going into a book on a wave of hype - I am so often then underwhelmed! Set in 1680s Amsterdam, the novel explores the hidden secrets of a wealthy merchant family as they are uncovered through a series of unexpected parcels.

For me, The Miniaturist read as two parallel books which never quite came satisfactorily together. On one hand, the historical novel of the Brandt family is wonderfully researched and portrayed and I loved picturing the vibrant trading city. We have visited Amsterdam ourselves, in midwinter, so I could remember the pretty canals and the bitter, damp cold! Burton does a great job of describing the people, their clothing and food. Especially the food! I was reminded of my hunger while reading Julie Lawford's Singled Out and The Temporary Bride by Jennifer Klinec. The Brandt household's diverse characters sit well together although events do get rather over-melodramatic at the painting-ripping point.

The alternate storyline is that of the eponymous Miniaturist, a model maker employed by new Brandt wife Nella to furnish the lavish doll's house that was her wedding gift. As well as the ordered items, Nella receives others that confuse her. However, as she begins to understand what is really going on in her husband's house, the extra items become scarily prophetic. I liked the idea of the doll's house and the descriptions of its tiny rooms and furnishings. The possibly magical element didn't really fit for me though and I think the novel could have been just as intriguing without this plot device.

The repressive religious beliefs of 17th century Amsterdam compete with its inhabitants' greed for guilders showing everyone to be a hypocrite to some degree. I thought the female characters were more convincing than the male, especially Cornelia and Marin who are great creations. I enjoyed The Miniaturist while I was reading it, but the more I think back over the book now, the less satisfied I am.

Etsy Find!
by Sincronicity in
Liverpool, England

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Books by Jessie Burton / Historical fiction / Books from England

8 comments:

  1. The miniature house and the small figurines that go into sound interesting.

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    1. I would love to have had a doll's house like this one!

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  2. I enjoyed this... but I struggled with the problematic aspects of the LGBTQ+ rep, and the fates of the Black and Gay characters.

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    1. I'm glad you could enjoy it despite these problems

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  3. I feel the same way you do about diving into books that are being so hyped up - I have found that I am often disappointed!

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    1. I usually try to wait a good couple of years before reading, if I can

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  4. I have this one on my shelf and I am so looking forward to reading it all the more! I love when Amsterdam is included in a book and featured very well as it's partly my home country city :D Interesting that you didn't think the two storylines came together satisfactorily though!

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    1. Burton does make the most of her Amsterdam setting. I loved recognising the city, even though I saw it over 300 years later

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