The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton Review

Rating: ❶❷❸❹⑤

Seventeenth-century Amsterdam has never looked more exciting and terrifying than in Jessie Burton’s 2014 novel The Miniaturist. Set during the Dutch Golden Age, the story follows Nella Oortman after she moves to the city following her marriage to a wealthy merchant, Johannes Brandt. As a wedding gift, Johannes offers Nella a dollhouse imitation of their own home and soon Nella is being sent eerily-accurate miniatures of the house’s furniture and residents by a mysterious miniaturist.

Although Nella moves to Amsterdam in the hopes of doing better than what her provincial life could offer, we quickly realise that everyone in the house – including Johannes Brandt, head of the household – seems to be confined and trapped by Amsterdam society in one way or another. This results in the characters often unable to reach their full potential or be their true selves in Dutch society. For instance, the heroine, Nella, is talented and intelligent yet only sees her future as part of becoming a wife and having children. As the events of the book unfold, it was really heartwarming to see Nella stand up for herself, as well as using her calculating and clever mind to help protect her family.

However, while I appreciated the ending and understood why Burton had to end the novel the way she did, I found it very melancholy to read, often sympathising with the character’s hopelessness. I also found the plotline concerning the miniaturist did not seem fully resolved or explained to me, which comes as a particular disappointment considering the book is named after the mysterious character and the fact that this is a stand-alone novel means we cannot find any resolution in a sequel.

Some are probably aware of the TV adaptation, the first instalment of which was aired on BBC 1 on Boxing Day. Although I enjoyed this adaptation, I felt the book was better in terms of characterisation and pacing, especially as events, characters reactions, and the chronology of plot points was changed unnecessarily. However, I still encourage readers to watch the adaptation as it offers a beautiful visualisation of the characters and settings.

So absolutely frickin delighted that The Miniaturist (book incarnation