The Miniaturist

Jessie Burton

The Miniaturist
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The Miniaturist

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.

Review

The Miniaturist sparked a bidding war at last year’s London Book Fair and resulted in a six-figure deal for Jessie Burton – not bad for a book rescued from a literary agent’s slush pile! Set in the Dutch Golden Age of seventeenth-century Amsterdam, The Miniaturist tells the story of Nella, an 18-year-old naive bride arriving at the grand home of her husband, Johannes Brandt, more than 20 years her senior and a rich merchant trader with the Dutch East India Company. Nella barely knows her husband but is determined to make her small-town family proud by fulfilling her wifely duties and is anxious to please her husband by playing the role expected by Amsterdam’s genteel society.

Johannes’ wedding gift to Nella is unusual – a miniature replica of her new home, and Nella commissions a craftsperson to help her furnish the gift. The tiny creations the miniaturist sends, sometimes asked for, mostly unbidden, mirror real life in unsettling ways. As Nella finds out more about the household, and the way of life in her new home, she uncovers many secrets, finding that all is not what it seems.

The Miniaturist is finely-crafted, gripping historical fiction, and fans of the intricate storytelling of Donna Tartt and Sarah Waters will be very satisfied by the twists and turns of this complex plot. Burton raises issues of race and sexuality – the novel provides an engaging discussion around women and the struggles they faced, both in domestic and public spheres, at the time. It is also a story of love, of how people are drawn together in surprising ways. Which leads to the question at the core of the The Miniaturist: just how much does a person have control of their fate?


**Ingrid Josephine is a former employee of Readings.

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