Published: 3rd July 2014
Started reading: October 17
Trigger warnings: Racism, sexual references, animal cruelty
On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin.
Only later does Johannes appear and present 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 mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways …
Nella is at first mystified by the closed world of the Brandt household, but as she uncovers its secrets she realises the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?
I picked up this book after deciding that I should read more historical fiction. Having finished it, I am extremely glad I did. The Miniaturist is a modern classic. A magnificent book on various different levels from almost beginning to end, with an extraordinary quality of writing that just had me totally immersed.
It is a novel rich in such incredible detail, covering a wide range of interesting issues and topics that are made even more captivating by the context of the time period in which it set. Indeed, the setting is one of the book’s most defining features, and it often felt as though I had been transported to 17th-century Amsterdam, such was the strength and clarity of its depiction.
The story itself is powerful and expertly constructed, always posing a lot of intriguing questions, and increasing in suspense. I loved its originality, and how the seemingly slow pace acts as steady and genuine plot development. It actually plays out a little bit like a Shakepearean tragedy, considering the number of sad events that take place, especially towards the end of the book.
Almost all of the characters were very compelling. Multi-faceted and teeming with depth, they were another one of the reasons why I was totally invested in this book. Nella is the main protagonist, and I liked how it turned out to be a gradual coming of age story for her.
What made Nella such a likeable character is her undying spirit, and how her personality combined innocence and daring. The one thing I did not like or understand was why she was so emotional about Johannes, when they had barely spoken to each other. Their relationship just felt a bit contrived.
Marin is a formidable character, a complex puzzle that is impossible to solve. The dialogue all the way through this book is exceptional, but every word she spoke carried huge meaning and added significance. I really enjoyed reading about her from Nella’s point of view, as her curiosity and determination to know more reflected mine as the reader.
The Miniaturist herself adds a fascinating and mysterious extra layer to the book, with her elusiveness and her unknown motives that yield many surprising secrets. However, I was disappointed with how her story ended, there were important questions left unanswered and no explanation about her prophecies. The prologue also makes little sense in the whole scheme of things.
That is a shame, because otherwise this book was astoundingly good is almost every other aspect. I am in awe of the writing style, which is wonderfully descriptive and even decorative, full of inventive, abstract metaphors and figures of speech that had me constantly making highlights on my Kindle!
It is told in the third person present tense, which perfectly captures Nella’s thoughts and emotions, as well as all of the sights and sounds of the scene that is happening around her. Jessie Burton’s style, boundless creativity, and occasional humour radiates from every page, all the while conveying a serious and tragic plot.
Overall, I absolutely adored this book. I can see why it has won so many awards and was adapted for television. The writing style, the characters, the setting, and the storytelling are all spot on and I am actually quite sad to have finished it. I only wish it had all come together better at the end because of some important loose ends it left unresolved and that is what made me dock half a star. But on the whole, one of the best books I have read in 2018.
Jessie Burton studied at Oxford University and the Central School of Speech and Drama. Interested in writing from an early age, The Miniaturist was her debut novel. Her second, The Muse, was released in 2016.
There is not much more I can say. This was an excellent, inspiring read, and I loved *almost* everything about it. If you like historical fiction and you have not read this, then I recommend it!
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5