Title: The Miniaturist
Author: Jessie Burton
Seasonal Reading Challenge: Task 25.1 Book #2 – Read a book in which the First letter of the First word is the same as the Last letter of the Last word in the title. Titles may contain any number of words including one.
Blurb: 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?
Review: This will be a tricky review to write, not because I didn’t enjoy the book, but because there are so many things I can’t discuss because of spoilers.
I first picked up this book at Barnes & Noble. I had never heard of it or the author. I just liked the cover art. Something about it just really spoke to me. I know the saying goes that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, but in this case, I’m glad I did. This was an excellent book. The writing is beautiful and captured this time period and city that I will never experience, but now deeply want to.
Nella is a very interesting character, but not a very complex one. She is very young and very naïve, essentially sent into marriage because her mother wanted her to have more opportunities than she would ever find in their poor, small town. She’s a very straightforward character – what you see is what you get – which makes all the other things going on around her in the story seem all the more off kilter.
I also really enjoyed her relationship with her sister-in-law, Marin. Marin is a VERY complicated character with all kinds of secrets and watching those secrets unfold is very satisfying. I was completely blindsided by it all. Nella and Marin go from antagonists, to barely tolerated roommates, to hesitant allies, which shows off the complexity of Marin’s character and the growth of Nella’s. Really well done.
Ugh, I wish I could say more! But it would totally ruin things if I did!
There is this sense of trepidation that goes throughout the novel, in many different aspects. The reader spends a great deal of time knowing that something is not quite right, but not knowing exactly what it is. One is, of course, the miniaturist. There is a slight supernatural element to this novel, but it’s slightly ambiguous. They never come out and confirm anything about how the miniaturist is able to do their work. That is a slight complaint about the story because there are many threads that are never fully resolved, and the story just sort of drifts to a close. I wish there could have been a bit more about it, especially about the miniaturist themselves.
But overall, this is a beautiful and haunting book. I definitely recommend it.
GoodReads rating: 5 stars.