The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton – My Review

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What’s it all about:

There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed…

On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives at a grand house in Amsterdam to begin her new life as the wife of wealthy merchant Johannes Brandt. Though curiously distant, he presents 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 ring eerily true.

As Nella uncovers the secrets of her new household she realizes the escalating dangers they face. The miniaturist seems to hold their fate in her hands – but does she plan to save or destroy them?

Review

I’ve had this book for a while now, sitting on my bookshelf waiting patiently as I pluck other books from around it or choose one of my many eBooks to read first. This weekend though, I finally picked it up and found it hard to put down.

The book begins at the funeral of a mystery person, from the point of view of a woman in the crowd, watching both the revelers and the mourners, her distaste evident.  If this isn’t enough to feed your curiosity and encourage you to continue then I don’t know what is.

The book then starts properly, part one introducing us to Nella Oortman from Assendelft, stood waiting patiently on the doorstep of her new husband’s house in Amsterdam. Nella has married wealthy merchant, Johannes Brandt, a much older gentleman, and is expecting to start her new life as a married woman with her husband, but she soon realises that she will be spending more time with her new sister-in-law, Marin, and their two servants, Otto and Cornelia, than her husband.

Johannes is constantly absent, meaning Nella spends much time alone, even when Johannes is home from work, trading one thing or another, he is usually locked away with one of his faithful dogs rather than joining her. Eventually, we get the feeling that Marin, who is far from shy, has words with him and one day, Johannes returns from work with a doll’s house. A toy, Nella feels, to occupy her and fill her days, decorating and furnishing as she wishes.

Nella tries to probe into the life of her new family, find out more about her husband, about how she can become a real part of his life but Marin, although seemingly kind in parts, has a cold exterior that continually pushes Nella away. Nella’s only friend becomes Cornelia, their maid, but even then, it feels like a lonely existence for Nella.

Deciding to solicit the help of a miniaturist for her replica house, Nella decides to make the best of what she has. After all, she does need something to distract her from her absentee husband and impending boredom. But when her first collection of miniatures arrive, there are a few more items than requested, all eerily identical to items that live in her house, including two miniature models of their dogs. Unsettled, Nella writes to the miniaturist but unrequested items continue to come. Each time they unsettle Nella more and more and become wicked premonitions of what is to come, yet remain overlooked by Nella until the event happens.

There were more twists and turns in this book than I ever imagined. The secrets that lie within the Brandt household could never be guessed from the outset, each one more shocking than the last. Each of the five parts of the book is given a date, so we get an idea of the timescale of events, and each of the first four parts contain not quite cliffhangers, but shocking endings nonetheless.

It’s hard to leave a full review of a book with numerous twists and turns without giving away spoilers, but what I will say is that this book hung over me last night like a thrilling cloak of mystery. I couldn’t get it or the house and characters out of my head, feeling like I had become a part of their story, invested in what happened to them all. I finished the rest of it this afternoon and although I did indeed love it, my only complaint was that Nella never got to meet the miniaturist. I feel like we missed out on a piece of a puzzle here, on who this woman was and how she did the things she did. Aside from that, and the fact I had to concentrate at first with the bits of Dutch thrown in (which is understandable given the setting) if you enjoy a book that will pull you in and feed you nuggets of wonderfully twisted information bit by bit, a book that is hauntingly addictive and gives you characters that you can both feel empathy for yet question their actions at the same time, move this beauty up your TBR list. Or add it if you haven’t already.

4 STARS

Buy it now:

Amazon UK / US

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