True love was a flower in the gut, its petals unfurling inside out. You would risk all for love – blissful, never without its drops of dismay.
After the death of her father, eighteen year old Petronella Oortman and her family are in financial dire straits. Her mother believes that it would be best for Nella to find a husband and make a new life for herself as a wife. However, the life she imagined for herself is not the one she finds with Johannes Brandt, a wealthy merchant from Amsterdam. Having left her family and comfortable small town of Assendelft behind, Nella is left to the austere Marin, Johannes spinster sister, and the spine tingling whispers she hears at night in the hallways of the enormous house. She finds limited friendship in Otto and Cornelia, the servants. But Johannes is away more than he’s home, and their contact is limited, bordering on non-existent. Nella is about to give up hope when Johannes returns home with a miniature replica of their own home. When she starts to fill the little cabinet with homey touches, however, it seems to take on a life of its own; the miniaturist behind the pieces seeming to know much more about Nella and her new family than she ever thought possible.
The Miniaturist is everything I love in historical fiction. The setting was perfect, the characters were believable, and I felt like I was in 17th century Amsterdam the whole way through. The book had a Rebecca-esque feel to it, with Marin as Mrs. Danvers, and Nella as the naive new wife. (Rebecca is one of my favorite classics, so this was exciting for me). For a while, I only had time to read on my way to and from work on the train, and I looked forward to it every time, until finally I sat down on Sunday and read straight through to the end. You get completely absorbed in the world of the Brandt’s, and their complex life with all its regulations, all the while trying to figure out who the mysterious miniaturist is.
My one teeny tiny complaint has to be the big “reveal” of the miniaturist itself: I was expecting something a little more ~*spooky*~ but it wasn’t boring by any means. I kind of like not knowing every detail sometimes. I guess it’s not much of a complaint then. All the more reason to check it out!
Jessie Burton has an amazing debut novel on her hands, and I am already so excited to see what she has in store for us next! The Miniaturist more than lived up to all the hype it’s received, and mine is one more in a stack of gushing reviews so far. By far one of the best books I’ve read this year. Definitely check it out if you’re into historical fiction…or Amsterdam…or a good book. You can practically feel the cool Amsterdam air as you read it, perfect for a fall day and an iced chai.