The Miniaturist: A Review

I thought she was stealing my life, but in truth she opened its compartments and let me look inside.

Nella arrives in Amsterdam at the home of her new husband Johannes Brandt young and full of hope for a new life. She knows little of her husband, only that he is a VOC merchant. The life she has in mind does not meet her expectations as she finds out there is more to Johannes than meets the eye. A solemn sister, Marin, a nosey maid, Cornelia, and a dark-skinned manservant, Otto, are just the beginning of new acquaintances.

As a wedding gift from her husband, Nella receives an intricate and exact cabinet-sized replica of their home. In furnishing her tiny present, Nella enlists the help of the Miniaturist, but receives much more than she asks for. The Miniaturist knows more about Nella than even she knows of herself.

Full of twists and turns, Jessie Burton’s novel  brings 17th century Amsterdam to your living room.

There were pros & cons about this book that had me going back & forth, but ultimately… I loved it. It garnered 4 stars on Goodreads because of my inability to put it down, my nights spent reading until 3 am, and my dreams filled with foreign words and unknown mysteries.

The opening was a little confusing for me. I didn’t know what was going on, but by the time I finished the book, the beginning fit. I even went back and read the prologue again to make sure I remembered it right, and it made so much more sense the second time around.

On one hand, parts of the story were unbelievable for me. Nella is a young girl from the country that seems to fit into the big city of Amsterdam surprisingly well & without much effort. Before you know it, she is acting as head of the house & is in charge of things she has never had any previous understanding of. She fits into Johannes’ life and becomes the wife of a successful merchant as if she always knew the life.

Then there is the fact that this book witnessed Nella’s growth as a woman. Once a young lady unsure of what being a wife would entail surprisingly becomes a strong woman capable of running a home with efficiency & ease. She finds herself in the midst of chaos & despair.

Another issue I have is with the miniaturist. We never really know who she is & why she does what she does. Yes, we meet her father at one point & oddly enough her & Nella (Petronella) share the same name, but there are many unanswered questions. Is she a witch of sorts? Does she see the future? Does she spy on people to find out the truth, what is hidden behind the veils of secrets? How does she know what miniatures to send to people? How many women on the island was she sending miniatures to?

Normally, the fact that I am left with questions after reading a book irritates me so much that I resign to a lower rating, but this book had me so committed. Just when I thought I knew what was going on, another kink in the chain. With every secret brought to the light, my theories changed and I would still end up wrong. Page after page until 2am sometimes, I would have to force myself to go to sleep. So while the story didn’t exactly live up to the title, I really enjoyed reading every page.

What I mainly gathered from this book is that we all have secrets. The secrets begin to unravel bit by bit leaving the characters exposed & vulnerable. Even in the beginning, there are secrets scratching at the surface of exposure & I was dying to find out more. Then when I found out… Bam! I was thrown for a loop & received more than expected. So much more.

The gift from Johannes, while infuriating to Nella at first, opens up a world to her, her world. If he wouldn’t have given her the cabinet, the series of events that unfolded would have been drastically different. The story wouldn’t exist. The Miniaturist, in a way, guides Nella into her new life as a wife & all that it entails.


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