By: Jessie Burton
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
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 life 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’s gift helps Nella 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?
I had been eyeing this book since I first saw the book cover last year. It’s a gorgeous cover and it, the title of the novel, and the premise left me curious about the story and the mystery behind it all. I picked up a copy of this book a few months ago and after reading a number of books in between and despite of my list of “priority” reading, I was compelled to just pick up this book and start reading it 😉
The author does such a wonderful job in bringing out the mysterious, elusive, and rather bleak atmosphere of this novel. I can almost feel the winter chill creeping into the city over the course of the novel. Like Nella, we find ourselves alone and trying to make sense of the characters adn the society that Nella is operating in, so different from her home. Amsterdam in this period is both fairly prosperous and thriving, but at the same time repressive with people constantly watching in vigilance for any improper action. It can be a bit bewildering but it adds to the sense of danger and mild paranoia in addition to the strangeness of the miniaturist and the little figures that are constantly delivered to Nella’s door.
I honestly read this book in one day, I couldn’t put it down. Once I started reading about and the mystery caught my attention–what are the Brandt siblings hiding? How does the miniaturist know everything about the Brandt household and what’s to come? Who can Nella truly trust–I couldn’t stop until everything was revealed. I felt so sorry for Nella, she seemed so trap in her situation and it’s through all of these secrets and twists and turns that she is able to grow both personally into a stronger person but also grow into the role that she stepped into when she married Johannes. But until then she seemed pretty passive, an observer to events; it’s not a criticism, how can one hope to face off against Marin (who half the time I just wanted to throttle her for being so nasty and such a bully to Nella 🙁 ). Until the revelations start emerging, the secrets that run rampant in the Brandt household really made the house feel really stifling and unnerving.
As I mentioned, the story kept me glued to my eReader. I wasn’t sure half the time where everything was headed–thank goodness I didn’t remember anything from the last paragraph of the above blurb–nor was I sure what was up with the miniaturist. It was pretty chilling how events were mirroring the items she was receiving for the cabinet replica Johannes gave Nella, again adding to the overall atmosphere of the novel. Was I disappointed by the reveal? Ehh, not really, there was plenty of other things happening in this novel to keep me preoccupied, though I was still left with a few questions about the miniaturist.
I feel like I should write about this book some more, but then that would reveal a lot of the plot points that came out of this novel. Suffice to say I really enjoyed reading The Miniaturist, it was a very interesting read that kept me intrigued and wondering about the fates of all of the characters. And quite an impressive read for a debut novel! I highly recommend it if you’re a reader of historical fiction 🙂