New Read: The Miniaturist

The Miniaturist

My mother lent me The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, with glowing praise for how much she enjoyed it. I can see the instant appeal for her, as she is herself, a miniaturist. I was excited to read this and it continues my 10 Books of Summer reading.

The Miniaturist takes us back to autumn, 1686 as young Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to start her married life. Nella’s mother has arranged a good match for her with Johannes Brandt, a wealthy merchant. The reception at her new, grand home is less than appealing, with two unusual servants, a stony sister-in-law and a distant husband. I think there is a really interesting mixture of characters. Through them Burton, the author, is able to bring up difficult issues, including gender roles, sexuality and racism. While I didn’t particular like the characters, not even Nella, I did sympathise and ultimately found them fascinating to read about.

Not long after her arrival Nella is presented with an extravagant and extraordinary wedding gift. A complete and perfect miniature version of her new home. This is when the story really takes off. Nella’s new home is full of secrets, lots of secrets. The ‘miniaturist’ Nella employs to furnish her Dolls House makes exquisite pieces but soon pieces, not ordered, begin to arrive. These unexpected pieces seem to eerily coincide with people and events within the house, which the ‘miniaturist’ shouldn’t possibly be able to know about. As more arrive Nella begins to believe the mysterious ‘miniaturist’ is trying to warn her of the secrets and terrible dangers which are to befall her household.

This is a dark, fast paced and excellently written mystery. From the moment the Dolls House arrived I could barely prize myself away. Being equally scared and excited about what could possibly happen next. I warn you this is not a happy read but it is gripping and tackles some really difficult and important issues. All set in the immersive setting and tense atmosphere of Amsterdam in the 1600s. This is not a time period I know much about. Burton, the author, has brought it all beautifully alive though. I could see the bustling streets and tall houses, I could feel the bitter cold, I could smell the sweet pastries, and I could feel the fear and hysteria in the air. However interesting it was to read about. This is one place and time period I would not like to visit; let alone have lived in.

The Miniaturist is a gripping and immersive read, and Jessie Burton is an author I look forward to seeing more of. I highly recommend to those who enjoy mysteries and historical fiction. I also recommend to those interested in literature that discusses LGBT, race and gender issues. Great read.

Have you read this? What did you think? Any recommendations for other literature set in Amsterdam?

10 Books of Summer – 2/10

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16 thoughts on “New Read: The Miniaturist

  1. I have this book, but I have not been able to read it yet.

    Thanks for your wonderful review. Makes it sound better than a few things I have heard. I may move it up in the stack if I can find it that is. 🙂 I moved books around….should not have done that. 🙂

    Stopping by from Carole’s Books You Loved August Edition. I am in the list as #34 through #36.

    Happy Reading!!

    Elizabeth
    Silver’s Reviews
    My Blog

  2. I have this waiting to be read so nice to read your review. Funnily enough I actually rushed out and bought it in hardback as soon as it was released and it’s still waiting! Oh well!
    Lynn 😀

  3. I’m glad you and your mother both enjoyed this! I liked it too, although I felt that the mystery surrounding the miniaturist was never fully explained.

    1. Thank you Helen. I know what you mean the ‘miniaturist’ was still left in some mystery. I personal hope that means that one day we might get to meet them again?!

  4. I’ve felt curious about this one, but haven’t felt tempted to read it until this review of yours. Good post, Jessica.
    Girl with a Pearl Earring is set in Amsterdam; I’m fuzzy about the period though, but it’s about Vermeer. Have you read it?

    1. Thank you Carmen, so pleased you liked this post and it has tempted you! And yes I forgot about Girl with a Pearl Earring. I enjoyed the film but I haven’t read the book; would definitely like to give it a go though.

  5. It was on offer not long ago on Kindle but I didn’t take it seeing a lot of bad reviews that put me off and now, yours makes me want to go back in time!

      1. 😉 maybe. You are right though. I will wait to see it in charity shop or on offer again, I’m sure it will be easy to find and I will let you know what I thought about it 😉

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