Book Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

“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. (Goodreads synopsis)

Nella arrives from her country town to Amsterdam to go and live with her new husband at his house. Johannes is a merchant with a secret and his sister Marin has always been the woman of the house. Johannes and Marin have two faithful servants in Cornelia and Otto who have kept the houses secrets. When Johannes gives Nella a wedding gift of a cabinet that is an exact replica of their house, she decides to hire a miniaturist to create replica pieces for the cabinet. There is something odd about the miniatures that are delivered as they seem to be predicting events that are happening within the house.

I went into this expecting a historical fiction set in seventeenth century Amsterdam. I got that but I got so much more. There was mystery and plot twist and reveals. There were secrets and stuff that I could not see coming. I essentially read this book in two sittings.

Nella as a character started out naive and fragile but soon she rose to the occasion and became the leader of the household. Her character development was so interesting to watch and there was nothing about it that seemed abrupt or out of place. The side characters’ growth was so interesting to watch also.

The one element that I don’t think I fully understood was how big a part the miniaturist was playing in the events of the book. It was an almost magical element that she added to the book. When I finished the book I was still confused and intrigued by just who the miniaturist was and what her abilities were.

Overall, this was a great, atmospheric read for people who like historical fiction and for those who don’t but like a very good book that is equal parts plot driven and character driven.

Have you read The Miniaturist? What were your thoughts? Let’s chat in the comments.

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Much Love,
Tasha

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