Friday, July 24, 2015

The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton

Summary: 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 . . .

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 worshipped 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?

Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth. (Pic and summary from

My Review: This is a tough book to review. I mean, I want to review it—it was really a cool book—but I’m going to have to be very careful about what I say because there are so many surprises and twists and turns that I don’t want to ruin it for future readers.

And you should read this book. It’s really very cool.

First off—and this is always a must—I enjoyed the writing style. It was more than just readable, which is really important to me. I like to be able to understand what’s going on. I don’t want to feel like I have to slog through stuff (and if that makes me a low brow reader, so be it) and be confused, but the reading has to be more than just readable. Many (not all, don’t get confused) writers are readable in that it’s a quick read and the writing doesn’t get in the way, but a good author is able to be very readable and also have an art and a style that is tangible and sets a really cool mood for the book. I don’t like it when the style comes in and takes over and leaves me feeling like it was only about the writing, never the story. I like it when an author writes in a way that enhances the story and when I look back, I can feel a certain mood and a consistent feeling. I think Burton does this and does it well. After having read this book I am able to associate a certain feeling and a mood and an environment in the story, and I attribute that to her writing.

Secondly, I thought the character of the miniaturist was fascinating. It really was so very interesting and I found myself being just as captivated and drawn into the detail of it as the main character, Nella was. I can’t say much more than that because I don’t want to reveal why it became more and more interesting, but I loved the layering and depth of that character’s story.

I also enjoyed the story itself. In its most fundamental element it wasn’t that shocking or that unique of a story, but because of the well-developed characters and the other elements that Burton has created in her novel—like the miniaturist—it really ended up being a very good story. Some of the twists were very surprising, but not everything was completely unforeseen. That’s okay. Sometimes I like it when stories aren’t into twists just for the sake of it.

I recommend this book. I enjoyed it a lot. It wasn’t a perfect book in all respects, but it is certainly worth the read.

My Rating: 4 stars

For the sensitive reader: This book does have a fair bit of discussion about sex and some discussion of homosexuality, including one fairly graphic scene involving two men. It is a brief graphic scene, but the discussion of sex and homosexuality is fairly prevalent throughout the book. I would not, for instance, read this book with my church book group. I would, however, read it with my other book group who reads a wide variety of genres. 


Kate Unger said...

I'm intrigued! Adding this book to my list.

Shelbie Drake said...

I've been looking for new books to review so will have to read this one as well!

Shelbie Drake said...

I'll have to read this book!It looks really really good!


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