Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam-a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion-a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.
“There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed…”
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?
Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.
The Miniaturist by Jesse Burton is one of those books of which my opinion starts one way but changes completely by the end! It took me a good third of the book to really get into it- I just found the first 150 pages or so pretty slow and really struggled to get into it. I could still appreciate the wonderful language Burton used throughout and the interesting, vibrant characters but the storyline just wasn’t drawing me in. I found myself getting distracted, which is usually never a good sign…
I knew it was bound to be worth persevering with though, and I was so glad I did!
The Miniaturist really is beautifully written. Burton’s writing is full of intrigue and mystery; I could almost imagine being in 17th century Amsterdam with them all, as well as the vibrant- but at times threatening and scary – atmosphere that surrounds them all. Similarly the characters are all wonderfully constructed and convincing, covering a wide range of class, profession and personality type. I felt that the atmosphere grew as the novel went on, and after the first third or so I really became quite enchanted by it.
The novel addresses some serious themes and doesn’t shy away from highlighting the awful treatment of certain groups of people in Amsterdam during this era. I certainly felt quite emotional during certain scenes. It certainly makes you consider how far Western society has come, but also how far we have left to go when tackling these kinds of prejudices.
Overall despite the less amazing start (in my opinion anyway), I finished the book having really enjoyed it. I am really impressed that this is Jesse Burton’s debut novel and although I’m not usually a huge reader of historical fiction, but this still really drew me in as it went on!
Give it a go- and please let me know what you think of it if you do!