The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton-a review

THE MINIATURIST by Jessie Burton-a review

The Miniaturist / / Barnes and Noble / KOBO / The Book Depository

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date August 26, 2014

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 . . .


REVIEW: THE MINIATURIST is an historical fiction storyline set in seventeenth century Amsterdam. Told from close third person POV, this is the story of newlywed Petronella Oortman –an eighteen year old young woman whose new and much older husband –merchant trader-Johannes Brandt is emotionally distant but not unkind. As the days blend into weeks Nella learns there are secrets within the Brandt household that will change her life forever. But a gift from her husband of a miniature replica of their home will begin to foretell of a dark and dangerous future. With each new miniature piece that arrives, Nella fears that someone is watching their every move.

The storyline follows a few months in the life of Petronella Oortman Brandt whose relationship with her husband is a matter of convenience. Left alone to her own devices, Nella begins to uncover family secrets hidden behind closed doors and secret rooms. Johannes reputation as a trader has garnered him a few loyal followers but it is his dalliances on the side that will see the beginning of the end. A negotiated promise of sales fails to produce the desired results.

THE MINIATURIST is a storyline that is set in 1686 around the time of the sugar cane plantation exploitation and slavery in the British West Indies. As the Dutch begin to import the candied sweet the business of trading and selling is one of critical survival. Here in lies a part of the storyline where Johannes Brandt’s personal and private life become fodder for public consumption-the politics and religion of the time will show no mercy.


Johanne’s sister Marin plays a major role throughout the storyline but like Johanne she is emotionally distant and lacks any sort of literary color. Most of the household members remain static in their development but Johanne’s one time friends will play a role in his downfall. It is not until the end of the story that we get a glimpse into the Brandt family dynamics and the darker secrets that they share. 

THE MINIATURIST is a dark and dramatic tale about family, betrayal, love and loss. It is a tragic look at life in the 1600s-from slavery to racism; judgment and religion; health, welfare and survival in a world where people have set themselves upon a pedestal of unreachable heights. The miniaturist is always in the background but never thoroughly explored–there are so many unanswered questions as to the who and why of the miniaturist’s involvement in the story-for all intents and purposes another storyline is required to clear up some of the mystery and to acknowledge to what purpose the miniaturist played in their lives. There is a hint of the paranormal with the miniaturist’s prophetic gifts.

Copy supplied by the publisher.

Reviewed by Sandy


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