by Jessie Burton
There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .
On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Only later does Johannes appear and present her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways . . .
Nella is at first mystified by the closed world of the Brandt household, but as she uncovers its secrets she realizes the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?
Beautiful, intoxicating and filled with heart-pounding suspense, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.
Nella Oortman, at 18 yrs old, moves from her rural hometown to Amsterdam, the new bride of wealthy merchant Johannes Brandt. Life is far from how she expects it to be. Her husband is distant and her sister-in-law in charge of the house.
As a wedding gift, Johannes buys Nella a miniature house, a replica of their own house, and leaves her to furnish it. But the pieces that are sent by the Miniaturist prove to be unnerving, seemingly prophetical. As dark secrets begin to emerge from within the Brandt household, the miniatures seem to be warning Nella.
I am spectacularly late to this particular party. Partly because I don’t really read a lot of historical fiction, so it’s taken me a while to get round to it. However I am so pleased that I did. This is a wonderful book full of secrets, mystery, wonderful characters and beautiful writing.
Nella is the character that takes us through the book, showing us the intrigue and lies that the household is built on. She grows, page by page, chapter by chapter, a beautifully drawn character with so much depth. Characters such as Marin, her sister-in-law, who is over-bearing and difficult, and Cornelia, the maid with a huge heart, are the ones that take this book to another level.
The book is steeped in 17th Century Amsterdam and is beautifully brought to life. it was not a time to live an unconventional life. Rigid laws, the rule of God and bigoted, unmoving officials make life not only uncomfortable but downright dangerous. The Brandt household lives on the edge, flirting with that danger.
There are so many twists and turns in this book, so much human drama, if anything the miniaturist is a sideshow. The last quarter of the book should be required reading for anyone who has a fixed view on any human topic. It is impossible not to weep at such malice and vindictiveness.
Jessie Burton’s debut is an absolute masterclass inn skilled writing, atmospheric setting and wonderfully drawn characters. I cannot wait to read The Muse, her second book.