The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

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★★★★

This edition was published by HarperCollins, and it makes for a very stunning cover.

The book follows the story of Nella, an 18-year-old girl who is whisked away from her small home town to live with her husband, Johannes, who is a merchantman. Nella is overwhelmed and excited by Johannes’s proposal. She is ready to leave boring, little Assendelft and begin a life with her new husband.

To her dismay, she finds Johannes to be aloof and distant, and his sister, Marin, reluctant to let Nella into their home. The only friends Nella seems to have are the two servants, Otto and Cornelia, and her pet parakeet. To make his detachment up to her, Johannes buys her an unfurnished dollhouse, hoping Nella would find some use out of it while he is away on his business trips. Affronted, Nella pays no attention to the small cabinet… at first. Nevertheless, as time passes, she sets out to employ a miniaturist, someone who specializes in making small figurines for dollhouses such as these.

Nella begins receiving packages from the mysterious miniaturist of items that she didn’t order. At first, she thinks it was a mistake, but realization dawns on her when these small figurines mirror what is happening in real life.

Thoughts: 

The idea for the story is based on an actual Petronella (Nella) Oortman, a Dutch woman whose furnished miniature house is part of an Amsterdam museum.

The detail on the cover reflects the intricate writing Burton displays in this debut novel. I had started this book sometime in November 2014, but found it to be incredibly slow, and I didn’t really care for the protagonist all that much. That all changed when I picked it up at the end of May 2015. Somehow, I managed to read the remaining 300 pages in a couple of days! It was completely mesmerizing: the delicate language used, the surprises lurking around every corner, it was great. It made me jump back into the world of reading; I’d been without it for so long due to school.

It starts to become very plot-driven once you hit the climax of the novel. One criticism is that the book tries to make it seem like Nella grows a lot as a character. She’s very young and naive at the beginning of the novel, but I don’t think enough time was given to her to embrace this new life headed her way. I mean, you can’t possibly expect her to actually be okay with what’s going on, but it doesn’t shake the fact that her innocence made it unbearable to read.

I think for someone to really enjoy this book, you have to make time for it. Post-graduation, I found it easier to sit down and fully immerse myself into the story.

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