The Miniaturist

The Miniaturist

A Novel

Book - 2014
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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 life 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.
Publisher: New York : Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2014.
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780062306814
Branch Call Number: FIC Burto
Characteristics: 400 pages ; 24 cm.


From Library Staff

samdog123 Jul 31, 2015

First time author, Jessie Burton, has a real hit on her hands. This is a wonderful historicial novel--with shades of the supernatural and other cultural themes--and yes, she manages to combine all of the above so well! When Nella arrives to her husband's home in Amsterdam in the 1600's, she feel... Read More »

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Feb 02, 2018

This story follows Nella, an intelligent and adventurous but still naive eighteen year old from the countryside of 17th century Netherlands who needs to make a good marriage after her father dies of drink and leaves her family without resources. She makes what she and her mother believe to be a good marriage to older, distant Johannes who is a successful trader in Amsterdam. She tries to feel her way through her husband's mysterious household- particularly her severe sister-in-law Marin- and the intrigues of the Amsterdam business world. The cabinet house she fills with miniatures are at first an annoying obligation, then something more. Will this hobby enlighten her, or is something devious at play? Nothing, however, can be more sinister than a civilization which praises God and Mammon in the same breath, and woe unto the person who can't balance his or her hypocrisy.

The story had a number of twists. The first one was easy to guess, but the others much less so. If Nella can't unravel the mysteries at first, they make sense upon review when we remember that not all rules are applied equally. Some of it is power, some of it is prejudice. Old news, perhaps, but it's always good to question how it should be handled. And not all rules, perhaps, are man's rules.

The setting of this story was unique; I admit I haven't read or seen too many pieces of historical fiction set in the Netherlands, which is odd considering their role in shaping the world. Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction with a touch of magical realism.

Jan 04, 2018

A different kind of read. Should be an interesting movie, if ever.

May 19, 2017

What a miserable book. It is not believable that so many horrible things could happen to one person. The story is not about the miniaturist, who is a mystery figure to the end, it is about how many awful happenings can be crammed into one book.
The author's other book, The Muse, was a disappointment too. I won't be wasting time with this author again.

Apr 19, 2017

So many books I've read lately have been hugely disappointing so I give this four stars only because it's the first book that's held my interest enough to actually get to the end.

It's not worth all the hype but I've come to realize that most gushy reviews mean nothing are probably written by some publisher's publicist.

It was better than most on my "to read" list. At least I kept turning the pages and I actually finished it.

The actual character of the "miniaturist" (who was the main reason I stuck with the book) was left hanging with literally no decent explanation. It would have taken very little effort from the author to give the title character at least a bit of a storyline. Bad form.

Apr 18, 2017

if you want to read a really great book with depth and detail, this is your golden pick. Burton gives us an amazing setting and detailed Amsterdam and the story of this woman is just amazing. I loved it, and I highly recommend this great piece of literature.

Bunny_Watson716 Jan 12, 2017

I really enjoyed the historic Amsterdam setting and the characters. The main character, Petronella, has been given a miniature house that is a replica of her own home. Once she starts having it furnished with miniature items, mysterious and upsetting things happen. Did you know that she was a real historic figure, and that her miniature house is on display at the Riksmuseuem in Amsterdam?

Sep 10, 2016

I enjoyed this book - got on side with the main character and her trials. Really conjured scenes of historic Amsterdam.

Jun 09, 2016

I agree with amukhrj. This book was stunning in its abilitiy to hold me in thrall through page after page. It has been one of the best books I've read in the last three or four years, in terms of a quite unique plot line, suspense, and excellently described, poignant characters. At different times in during the day I would find myself wondering "What's coming around the corner next?" in the book waiting for me!

May 15, 2016

A real gem of a book! Highly recommend it! The process of reading was like a budding flower blooming; layer by layer a mystery brewed and unfurled at the end with an ending was unhappy with. I won't spoil the ending by revealing much more than that. The words were crafted in a way to stir the imagination with bright colours, thoughts and feelings. A beautiful read.

May 15, 2016

This debut novel by Jessie Burton is definitely well written and the story line does keep one's interest. It is an excellent description of Amsterdam's merchant life of the 1600s. I did find, however, that the story does not appear plausible, considering that homosexuality, interracial relationships and and illegitimate birth would be subjects that would not be discussed at all, even within the walls of a family. A very disappointing ending, especially when it comes to identifying the miniaturist. The main character, Petronella Brandt, really did exist and her dollhouse as well. The story has nothing to do with her and the author would have been wise to use a fictitious name.
Mrs. Brandt's memory deserves better.

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Apr 18, 2017

“Every woman is the architect of her own fortune.”

Sep 14, 2015

In suffering do we find our truest selves.

Sep 14, 2015

Growing older does not seem to make you more certain. It simply presents you with more reasons for doubt.


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Feb 19, 2017

Nella escapes her dreary dead-end future in small-town Netherlands via an arranged marriage to a successful merchant in Amsterdam. She enters the household of Johannes, his sister Marin, and their servants Cornelia and Otto. The big business deal on Johannes' plate is to sell a warehouse full of sugar. He'll split the profits with his former best friend, who is very eager to get the sale in motion even though it's not the best time of year to do so. He gives her a miniature house as a wedding gift. Soon thereafter, she begins receiving exquisitely created miniatures of the members of the household and the furniture in the house. Then the gifts begin taking on something of a magical predictive quality, i.e., the miniature dog develops a smear of red on his skull, and later the dog is stabbed in the skull and dies. Johannes is distant and often absent and seems to be disinterested in Nella as a wife. Turns out he's gay, which Nella discovers when she interrupts him in flagrante. His former best friend catches him, too, and turns him in to the police. It's a crime punishable by death to be gay in 17th century Amsterdam. He is "tried" and found guilty, and executed by drowning. Meanwhile, his sister Marin has given birth out of wedlock to a daughter fathered by Otto, the black servant ("a savage") Johannes brought back from his travels to Africa. She died in childbirth. So the story ends with Nella, Cornelia, Otto, and newborn Thea living together in circumstances created primarily by Johannes and Marin -- and the society of 17th century Amsterdam.

The mystery of the miniatures and their maker was not revealed.

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