The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

the-miniaturistJessie Burton’s debut novel, The Miniaturist, is set in late 17th century Amsterdam and tells the story of an 18 year old woman, Nella Oortman, who married a wealthy merchant, Johannes Brandt. Nella, a country girl, has to move to the city to start her new life with her husband, but when she arrived there she was received by her husband’s very unfriendly sister, Marin, instead of himself.

Johannes, a well-respected businessman, turns out to not be the man she thought he was. He rarely shows interest in his wife, but he does buy her an ostentatious wedding gift – a miniature cabinet of their house. When Nella realizes that her husband might be trying to avoid her, Marin insistently showing her that SHE is the woman of the house and the two servants, Cornelia and Otto not receiving her well in the beginning, she sets her attention on furnishing her miniature house. That’s when she recruits the miniaturist and that’s where most of the intrigue of the novel starts.

The miniaturist brings a magical and macabre element to the story. The items that the miniaturist are being recruited to make isn’t the only items she sends to Nella. Somehow the miniaturist knows what is happening in her house and can foretell what is still to happen and is using these items to send Nella a message. This freak out and intrigue Nella in equal measure and as much as there were rules the citizens of Amsterdam has to obey, Nella takes the chance to continue working with the miniaturist out of curiosity.  What else does she know? Can she help Nella uncover the secrets in this house and the people that live in it?

Beautifully written, The Miniaturist is an interesting piece of historical fiction that blends family secrets, betrayal and magic realism. The story of the miniaturist’s role in Nella’s life adds an eerie mystery to the tale, but never gets solved or reach a satisfactory conclusion, which was a bit disappointing to me. I don’t know what happened to the miniaturist and although I can appreciate her role in the story was to warn Nella (even though she never really caught on in time), I did want to know more about her. For me, this made the ending of the novel fall a little flat, but it still was a good read.

Have you read it? What did you think?

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Disclaimer: I received this book from Panmacillan SA, for review consideration

  • Jennine G.

    I’m thinking I’m going to have to put this on the TBR. I’ve read many good opinions about it.

  • I have not read it, so I can’t comment on the ending. But it is on my TBR list; the setting is very intriguing.

  • I’ve read it, and really liked it – a really unusual book, utterly adorable. And I loved Marin.

    • I actually liked Marin too. I loved that she was a strong woman, who rebelled against social norms. Great character!

  • Fleur in her World

    I’ve not read my copy yet, but you have me thinking that I really must find time for it soon.

  • I think a lot of people shared your disappointment. However, I found that the book was about more than the identity of the Miniaturist. It’s about finding your place in the world and being your whole self even when that’s not a popular thing to be. And the setting! But I think for a lot of people, the mystery around the Miniaturist distracted from the rest. I’m interested to see what Burton comes up with next though!

    • I loved the setting as well and I’m looking forward to Jessie’s next novel. You’re absolutely right, the storyline was more than just the Miniaturist and if she wasn’t present in the novel, the storyline would still be intriguing and interesting. I just wish there was a more satisfactory conclusion to her story. Marin was a fantastic character – I always admire strong female characters in a book. I did love the book and the story, it was just the ending that left me a little disappointed, but the reading experience was enjoyable – for sure!

  • This sounds really interesting! I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like this one; I remember seeing something about it and thought it looked intriguing. I’m so glad you enjoyed it and thank you for the great review.

  • I was also disappointed by the ending and found the title misleading, but overall I loved the book, all of its detail and descriptions got my imagination going. I also thought Nella was a good female protagonist.

    • I loved both Nella and Marin. Marin was probably my favourite! The ending is the only part of the novel that was a little disappointing – the reading experience was great. I loved the descriptions, detail and the time period. It’s hard to review a book you loved reading, but felt that you wanted more in the ending. Oh well 🙂

  • Monique

    I have read it and loved it. Great review!

  • Nishita

    I’ve heard a lot about this book, but have yet to get to it. It sounds fascinating. I love magical realism so this one might be just perfect for me.

  • Alex (Sleepless Reader)

    Everyone seems to be reading this one and I saw it pop up in several best-of-2014 lists – I’ve added it to the wishlist.

  • Bookheathen

    I received this book as a Xmas present; it’s two or three down my list to read and review.

  • Ciska van der Lans

    I had hoped on more mystery in this book. I was disillusioned after reading 🙁 Could see it was well written but did not change a thing

  • I really, really want to read this book. Definitely going to check this out the minute my book buying ban ends next month xP Great review! 🙂