Book Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The MiniaturistWhat’s it about?

There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .

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 realizes 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?

My thoughts

I’m a little late to the party where this book is concerned but better late than never so they say! This was my book club choice for February and was out of my comfort zone as I’m not usually one for historical novels but this is what I love about book clubs and that you’re forced to diversify your reading.

Anyway, this is Nella’s story set in 17th Century Amsterdam. At only 18 years of age she’s married to a much older man and moves from her country home into the heart of Amsterdam and into a house full of hidden relationships and secrets.

Very early on Nella is given a cabinet house as a wedding gift from Johannes, her husband. She’s basically given a wad of promissory notes and told to furnish it. This seems to have been done to fill her time and keep her away from the real running of the house and uncovering what’s really going on. In order to furnish the house Nella instructs The Miniaturist to create her miniatures and herein sets the family on an irreversible course.

The author has really managed to capture Amsterdam’s setting beautifully, it feels very of its time and shows real research and overall I did enjoy the book. Although, I had no idea about the real theme of this book and its unexpected sexual content; some explicit, which came totally out of the blue for me as I’d deliberately stayed away from reviews etc. Considering the book is set over 400 years ago the book does have modern issues in that there are still places in the world now that persecute their citizens in similar ways.

I couldn’t give the book 5* because as a reader I felt left with too many unanswered questions particularly surrounding the majority of the plotline with the Miniaturist herself; her abilities and what she was actually doing or forseeing. I felt that using the title of The Miniaturist is a little bit of a let down. I also didn’t quite get the obession with the sugar and Johannes sheer determination not to sell it and seal the family’s financial future.

Spotted at Erddig - National Trust

Spotted at Erddig – National Trust

I’m unaware of how historically accurate this book is but it reads very well and I just suspended any disbelief and believed that this would have been how things were. Overall, I found it to be an interesting and original debut and will be interested to watch the tv adaptation; maybe it will flesh out some of the unanswered questions – see Picador blog here. I felt it was worthwhile of 75% of all the social media hype and if you haven’t read then do, it’s worth a read!

If you’re interested in the story behind the story take a look at this website – Rijks Museum

Get the book Paperback | Kindle

Connect with the author Jessie Burton via

Twitter | Website

8 Comments

  1. 14th March 2015 / 5:11 pm

    I bought myself a copy of this Lindsay although not sure when I will get round to reading it!

    I enjoyed reading your balanced review.

    • 14th March 2015 / 8:08 pm

      Thanks Shaz – it’s definitely worth the read 🙂

  2. 14th March 2015 / 8:52 pm

    I loved this book, but there really were SO many things unanswered, the ending kind of just happened without wrapping anything up!

    • 14th March 2015 / 8:58 pm

      I absolutely agree. Hard to discuss without spoilers though. It’s all left for you to decide

  3. 15th March 2015 / 12:51 pm

    i am reading this for my book club, thanks for your view

    • 19th March 2015 / 4:28 pm

      I read for book club too and it did give us a very lively discussion.
      Do come back after your club meets and let us know what you all thought 🙂

  4. 15th March 2015 / 12:58 pm

    Great review! As you know, I have this on my shelf waiting to be read. I’m excited, because of all the great reviews I’ve read but a bit apprehensive because I tend to struggle with historical fiction.

    • 19th March 2015 / 4:27 pm

      Thanks Jenny!
      Yes it’s historical but it has a few themes that are still relevant/current now. The first couple of chapters are a little hard work but after that, I don’t think you’ll find it as difficult as you expect 🙂

Your Thoughts...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.