Review 1385: The Miniaturist

I so enjoyed The Miniaturist that I was only disappointed at knowing all its secrets, since I had first seen it televised on Masterpiece. Jessie Burton’s novel is set in the 17th century, and what a difference from the previous novel I read (Widdershins) also set in the 17th century. Burton’s novel evokes the bustling city of Amsterdam, ruled by commerce but also by a harsh Calvinism, a city where people are constantly watched for misbehavior.

Nella arrives from the country to take up residence with her new husband, Johannes Brandt, a wealthy merchant. Although she brings a good family name to the marriage, she brings nothing else, for her father was a poor businessman.

Nella isn’t warmly received. Johannes’s sister Marin is cold, and Johannes hasn’t bothered to be home. When, after a few days, Johannes hasn’t consummated the marriage and Marin continues with the housekeeping, Nella fears that she has no role in her new life.

Johannes’s marriage gift to her is a miniature copy of their house that she can furnish. Although Nella thinks he is treating her like a child, she eventually sends a note to a miniaturist asking for three items: a lute, because Marin will not allow her to play the ones in the house; a block of marzipan, because Marin disapproves of sugar; and a marriage cup, which Nella should have received from Johannes but did not. When the items arrive, they are exquisite, but she also receives things she did not order. And more arrive. They so closely match what is going on in the house that Nella first thinks the family is being spied upon, later that the items foretell the future.

This novel is really good. The story and characters are compelling. Life both within the claustrophobic household and the city is evocatively evoked. It has a delicate touch that reminds me very much of Tracy Chevalier’s The Girl with a Pearl Earring. And there is that tantalizing touch of the supernatural.

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7 thoughts on “Review 1385: The Miniaturist

  1. Helen August 20, 2019 / 1:53 pm

    I enjoyed this too, though I remember feeling that the mystery surrounding the miniaturist was never fully explained, but that wasn’t a big problem. I loved the setting and the atmosphere.

    • whatmeread August 20, 2019 / 3:21 pm

      Yes, it isn’t explained, but that adds to the mystery.

  2. katknit August 20, 2019 / 3:12 pm

    I too enjoyed this book, though it was a bit of a downer….

  3. Davida Chazan August 24, 2019 / 11:27 am

    She had me from the opening line, and I couldn’t put it down. Just loved it. But I’ve read some reviews that weren’t as effusive about it. Sounds like you and I have somewhat similar tastes.

    • whatmeread August 24, 2019 / 12:51 pm

      Yes, I loved this book. My brother was going to have a stay in the hospital, so I sent him a copy. I don’t know what he thought of it.

      • Davida Chazan August 24, 2019 / 11:28 pm

        My husband also loved it, and he bought her next book “The Muse” because of it.

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