The Miniaturist

Author: Jessie Burton 
Pages: 400 
Publisher: Ecco 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): 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 worshiped 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?

My Summary: Nella is a new bride who has not spent more than a few minutes alone with her new husband. Arriving on his doorstep to begin her life as his wife, she is shocked to find that there is nobody there to welcome her but her sister-in-law: a hard, unkind woman who seems to enjoy nothing more than finding fault in everyone.

Life with her husband and sister-in-law is dull, but things change dramatically when Johannes gives Nella his wedding gift: a cabinet containing a miniature replica of their home. Tasked with filling it with miniature furniture, Nella finds herself communicating by letter with a mysterious woman who seems to know much more about Nella's new life than even she does. 

Unable to confront the miniaturist, Nella does the only thing she can: try to figure out what the miniatures are telling her, and  do whatever she can to survive. But even with the miniaturist's advanced warnings, Nella finds her world collapsing around her in a way that she could never have prepared herself to deal with.

My Thoughts: This was one of my highly-anticipated reads of the new year, and I gotta say: it was well worth the wait! The premise intrigued me immediately, and the gorgeous cover had me scrambling to get myself a copy as soon as I could. 

The writing flowed beautifully and felt almost like prose at times. The cast of characters were all so well-developed and layered that I couldn't choose a favourite. For all her flaws, I really loved Marin - she had such amazing complexity that I couldn't help but sympathize for her. My heart ached for Johannes, and his inability to do anything as his world came crashing down was incredibly hard to watch. 

I loved the creepy element of the miniaturist; I wish we'd gotten more information about her! I'd definitely want to read a novel centering around her and her back-story. I also really liked that the city of Amsterdam itself was almost a character in a way, and that the reader got to see the contrast between the glittering, wealthy side and the dark, gritty side. 

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys Gothic lit as well as historical fiction.

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