The Miniaturist was one of the first books I read in 2017. I wanted to read this book because it is based from Amsterdam, which appealed to me. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. Here is my book review for this wonderful title.
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Set in 1686, the story follows 18 year old Petronella Oortman. Due to the death of her father, she must marry. Petronella’s mother finds a suitable man for Nella to marry. A rich merchant from Amsterdam called Johannes Brandt and Nella must move to Amsterdam. With her parakeet called Peebo, she heads off to start her life as a married woman. Sadly, married life does not meet her expectations. On arrival in Amsterdam, Johannes is not home, however she is greeted by Johannes’ sister, Marin.
Because of Johannes and his job, he is constantly away from the house travelling. This means that Nella hardly ever sees her newly wedded husband. Whenever she does get to see him, he is very quick and cold and constantly spends his time while home from travelling in his study. He shows no signs that he wants any intimacy with Nella. This was not the married life she expected. What she expected was that she was going to be a vessel for the man to grow a child.
The maid and the manservant and the house of secrets
In the house, Marin and Johannes have a maid and a “manservant”. Cornelia the maid, and Otto. Cornelia is a keyhole listener, keeping an ear out for all the news within the house, while Otto with his black skin is a talking discussion throughout Amsterdam. Wherever he goes, people ridicule him. Cornelia believes that Madame Marin has many secrets that she would love to untie.
Madame Marin is a very strong and independent woman, who has never married and inherited the house along with Johannes at a young age. Cornelia thinks she knows of Marin’s past love interests, as well as other secrets that she may be holding, but Marin is a woman of many secrets. Wanting the best for her and Johannes and for the house.
Enter the miniaturist
Johannes eventually buys Nella a wedding gift. A miniature toy house. It is quite extraordinary because it is an identical replica of the house. 9 rooms in total. She is told that she should furnish the house, which gives Nella a feeling of resentment, like she is being treated like a child. She is handed a book with various addresses of people to contact, and she comes across the miniaturist. A person who specializes in all things small. She decides to contact this person, however this starts Nella on a mysterious journey. The Miniaturist starts sending her extra works of art for her cabinet, stuff that she never asked for.
Why is she sending these? For what purpose do they hold? Is the miniaturist trying to tell Nella something? These are questions that Nella tries to find out.
The book covers a wide range of topics. Racism, homosexuality, feminism, topics that were very apparent during 17th century Amsterdam. I personally feel that Burton has covered these topics very well.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. At the beginning, I did have a little bit of trouble starting, but once I was past the first chapter I started to get really into the reading flow. The mystery with the miniaturist and the twists and turns that occur throughout the book had me on the edge of my seat a number of times.
Flails out of 5?
The Miniaturist gets 4 out of 5 flails!