The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton Book Review

The Miniaturist came out in 2014 and was the subject of a publisher’s bidding war at the London Book Fair the year before. It came up in conversation at uni and we remarked at how beautiful the cover is. I saw on a visit to HMV and bought it there. I regretted it soon after as the copy in Waterstones had a much nicer cover. The picture is the same but it had a matte finish and an embossing effect, it just looks much nicer.

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It stayed on my shelf for a while, the end of last year. I got it off the shelf ready for me to read and it was only then did I see an advert on television for the BBC adaptation of it which I am very eager to watch.

On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives at a grand house in Amsterdam to begin her new life as the wife of wealthy merchants Johannes Brandt. Though curiously distant, he presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creation ring eerily true.

As Nella uncovers the secrets of her new household she realizes the escalating dangers they face. The miniaturist seems to hold their fate in her hands- but does she plan to save or destroy them?

Petronella Oortman was in fact a real Dutch woman who owned a cabinet house which is part of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (Seen below). I like books set not just in another century but in another culture as well. When I read Memoirs of a Geisha (Set in Japan before and after WWII) it was like stepping into a completely different world, even though it’s set on Earth. The story itself sounded really intriguing, but I was more interested in immersing myself in 17th century Amsterdam.

This book is amazing, I just ate it up. I found it hard to actually do anything else while I was reading this. It transported me to Amsterdam every time I opened the book. I went for a haircut and was reading it while I waited and I nearly missed the hairdresser asking me to the chair.

It felt very similar to Jane Eyre at times, especially at the beginning. A young girl, arriving at a new house with a new position and an enigmatic, secretive man at the head of the household. I really liked Nella. I found that even though she was only eighteen (something many of the others held against her) she was very spirited. She had a surprisingly good handle on her situation, moving into the house of a man she barely knew but had married the month before.

I found that even if you had taken out the Miniaturist, the story would have been good, but the clairvoyant Miniaturist made it all the more gripping. I am eager to read this again and to read any of Jessie’s other work.

One thought on “The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton Book Review

  1. I’ve been wondering about this book. Living in Belgium I’ve been to the Rijksmuseum and seen the doll house. I almost picked up the book but when I saw the BBC show was coming on soon, opted to watch that first. I was disappointed in it. Realizing that movies and TV often don’t do justice to the book, I’m wondering if I should read it. My question is, does the book do a better job of integrating the miniaturist into the plotline? The TV show was weak and really pointless, IMHO.

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