Book Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

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Published: 2014

The Miniaturist came into my life thanks to the positive review that Paperback Princess had posted about a few weeks back now. After a rather slow read of Danubia, I was really looking forward to a light, and pleasant read and that is exactly what I got. The story started of rather slowly as were introduced to the characters and surroundings, and I was captured with the characters straight away.

The story is about a girl name Petronella (Nella) Oortman who has just moved to Amsterdam from the countryside after recently being married off to a wealthy merchant named Johannes. Like the reader, Nella is slowly introduced to her new household comprised of her austere sister-in-law, mysterious husband and two servants. Alongside these unfamiliar faces, she has to cope with being thrown into an unfamiliar city lifestyle. From the offset of the novel, there are many unanswered questions pertaining to the characters that we learn of as the plot progresses. Alongside this, Nella and the reader are haunted by the unknown identity of the dubbed Miniaturist who keeps sending Nella odd miniatures that seem to predict the future.

The book took a dramatic turn for me on the 156th page, and from then on it changed pace and I was unable to put it down. I was completely submerged in the book’s plot and I finished the book in 24 hours, during a workday mind you! The author’s writing was very gentle, easy to read and effective.

One of the main themes, and the one that intrigued me most, was the role of women. Cornelia, the maid of the household, makes a rather audacious yet probably accurate statement about the role of women in the year 1686:

 “Men are the makers of this world.”(289)

Nonetheless, it would appear to me that the book tries very hard to demonstrate that it’s just the opposite. It is the men of the novel that appear weak and conniving, while it is the women in the background that make the rational decisions, or at least try and keep the households and life running. Marin for example, is often the practical and reasonable voice in the household, as it becomes evident quite early on she influences the family’s business and financial situation.

The only negative aspect of this novel was the end. The lack of disclosure of who the miniaturist actually is or what happened to them is extremely disappointing, especially because there was such a huge buildup to their identity. I felt it just ended really suddenly. The events that took place in the latter half of the book were overtly dramatic in contrast to the rest of the novel and so felt out of place. It has been pointed out that the point of the miniaturist shouldn’t encapsulate the book as the author is trying to bring to attention other themes. But then what is the point of making women look weak by allowing them to be controlled by this miniaturist in the first place? Since it is only women who fall under it’s spell and need their lives dictated to them in order to carry on.

Verdict: A very refreshing read, loved the setting, the characters, very engaging writing and overall quick read, aside from the rather abrupt ending.

Have you read a book recently with a strong female lead? 

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

  1. Thanks for the link! Your copy of it is so much prettier than mine!

    I like what you’re saying about the fact that, society seems to move by the power of men, when really it’s the strength of the women in the book that make things happen. It’s too bad that the mystery of the Miniaturist wasn’t more compelling but I think that there is definitely more to it than just that storyline.

  2. I didn’t love the ending either, but also appreciated the independence of the female characters and how the book had plenty of intriguing twists. I’ve read a few books with fairly strong female characters, but in some cases they were quite flawed at the same time. Maybe this makes them easier to relate to?

    • Yeah, and like many people have pointed out before, the miniaturist character is intriguing but the main point of the novel is about the female characters 🙂 Thanks for the comment, really cool thoughts!

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