The Miniaturist

The Miniaturist

3.9 75
by Jessie Burton
     
 

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On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office–leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and

Overview

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office–leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella's life changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist–an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways...

Johannes's gift helps Nella pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand–and fear–the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation...or the architect of their destruction?

Enchanting, beautifully written, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

Editorial Reviews

"Feminist golden-age fiction" is how The Miniaturist was billed during publisher bidding wars over the rights, but even that hardly renders full justice to the debut of Londoner Jessie Burton. Set in late 17th century Amsterdam, this richly researched fiction traces the story of new arrival Nella Oortman, an 18-year-old recently yoked to 39-year-old merchant Johannes Brandt, who clearly seems more married to commerce than to his wife. His wedding gift of an expensive replica of their home becomes the focus of Nella's imaginative life and she engages a miniaturist to furnish its empty rooms. But when new pieces begin to arrive unbidden, the inexperienced teenager is startled by glimmers of an unfolding fate.... A Discover Great New Writers selection; editor's recommendation.

Library Journal
06/15/2014
This debut novel from Oxford-educated actress Burton transports the reader to Amsterdam in the winter of 1686, where the Dutch merchant class is obsessed with money and influenced by a repressive church. Eighteen-year-old Petronella arrives at her new home on the Herengracht canal to take on her role as wife to a wealthy merchant, Johannes Brandt. To help her adjust to an existence with a largely absent husband and an unfriendly household, Johannes gives Nella a cabinet house, a small replica of her residence. Nella finds a miniaturist to produce pieces for this toy, but the cryptic notes that come with his deliveries cause her to feel increasingly uneasy. As the Brandts' place in the community is threatened, Nella tries to understand the societal nuances and help her family. VERDICT Barton's writing is expressive and descriptive. While her prose is rich, it does not overwhelm the story, which takes a number of sharp turns as the truths about the Brandt family are revealed. This historical novel with its strong female characters will appeal to those who enjoy the haunting undercurrents of Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind.—Terry Lucas, Rogers Memorial Lib., Southampton, NY
The New York Times Book Review - Michael Peed
…a seductive meditation on greed, power and the tortuous journey even the well heeled must endure for self-possession. Burton adroitly depicts a culture of contradiction: a love of affluence and indulgence chafing against the impulse for God-fearing abstinence. The result is a population "living in the shadows between lies and truth."
—The Guardian
“A fabulously gripping read that will appeal to fans of Girl With a Pearl Earring and The Goldfinch, but Burton is a genuinely new voice with her visceral take on sex, race and class...”
—S.J. Watson
“The Miniaturist is that rarest of things - beautifully written, yet also a compelling page-turner. It’s haunting, magical, and full of surprises, the kind of book that reminds you why you fell in love with reading.”
Hannah Kent
‘Utterly transporting...one of those rare debut novels that excels in every regard. The past is brought to life in potent, sensory detail: one feels steeped in it. Burton’s prose beguiles the reader...My first instinct on finishing this book was to immediately read it again.”
—New York magazine
“This debut novel, set in 17th-century Amsterdam, hits all the marks of crossover success: taut suspense, a pluck heroine- and a possibly clairvoyant miniature-furniture designer.”
Good Housekeeping
“[A] haunting debut.”
Booklist
“A standout portrayal of the wide range of women’s ingenuity.”
New York magazine/Vulture.com
“As in Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, the pleasure lies in giving in to well-wrought illusions, and the result is a beach read with meat on its bones - perfect for the Labor Day transition from play to work.”
Entertainment Weekly
The Miniaturist is one of the year’s most hyped novels, and it’s easy to see why. Burton conjures every scent and crackle of Nella’s world. A-”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Rich in 17th century atmosphere…Debut novelist Jessie Burton has a terrific subject... All those severe portraits of people in dark clothes and starched white ruffs, along with those glossy, death-scented still lifes, spring to life.”
Washington Independent Review of Books
“The Miniaturist is a masterpiece of atmosphere and tension …. The themes Burton explores are as relevant today as they were long ago …. a thoroughly engaging, beautifully written work of historical fiction.”
Dallas Morning News
“In The Miniaturist, Burton uses a historical object - the real Petronella Oortman’s cabinet house in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum - as the springboard for a fantastically spun tale of love and mystery. It’s a story that astutely reflects our own age’s obsessions and prejudices, and it’s one not to be missed.”
BookPage
The Miniaturist excels in depicting Amsterdam and its wealthy upper class, and lovers of art and of Amsterdam will be drawn to Burton’s imaginative story, which flows as effortlessly as water down a canal.”
New York Daily News
“Jessie Burton nimbly transports contemporary social issues to the 17th century where a costume drama rich in historical detail is embellished with supernatural intrigue…The Miniaturist is a late-harvest summer delight.”
Tampa Bay Times
The Miniaturist is an impressive debut… Burton has created a world that, like the cabinet house, draws us in until we feel the dread and mystery and wonder that surround Nella.”
Shelf Awareness
“In Jessie Burton’s atmospheric debut, The Miniaturist, the powers of love and obsession, sins and secrets, loyalty and forgiveness bind together a cast of sympathetic characters who all have a part to play in a collectively chilling conclusion.”
The Gilmore Guide To Books
“A magical, intricate marvel of perfection… with luxurious prose that immerses the reader in the cold, damp of Amsterdam… A book that enchants from beginning to end.”
My Friends are Fiction
“A suspenseful and moving read.”
Entertainment Weekly (Must List)
“Seventeenth-century Amsterdam comes alive in this meticulously researched, enchantingly told tale.”
Washington Post
“Burton gives her narrative the propulsive drive of a thriller, but her distinctive prose conveys deeper, harder answers than a whodunit. This fine historical novel mirrors the fullness of life, in which growth and sorrow inevitably are mingled.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Jessie Burton’s debut novel…has all of the trappings of a historical page-turner: a rich setting in 17th-century Amsterdam, a plot inspired by an antique “cabinet house” located at the renowned Rijksmuseum, and a diverse cast of characters…a perfect amount of authentic detail and a plot that speeds along.”
Us Weekly
“Teen bride Nelly strives to connect with her aloof husband and his spinster sister, but uncovers secrets that, in intolerant 1686 Amsterdam, could mean death. It’s a tense tale.”
New York Times Book Review
“A seductive meditation on greed, power and the tortuous journey even the well-heeled must endure for self-possession. Burton adroitly depicts a culture of contradiction: a love of affluence and indulgence chafing against the impulse for Godfearing abstinence.”
—S.J. Watson
“The Miniaturist is that rarest of things - beautifully written, yet also a compelling page-turner. It’s haunting, magical, and full of surprises, the kind of book that reminds you why you fell in love with reading.”
—The Guardian
“A fabulously gripping read that will appeal to fans of Girl With a Pearl Earring and The Goldfinch, but Burton is a genuinely new voice with her visceral take on sex, race and class...”
—New York magazine
“This debut novel, set in 17th-century Amsterdam, hits all the marks of crossover success: taut suspense, a pluck heroine- and a possibly clairvoyant miniature-furniture designer.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062306838
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
08/26/2014
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
13,615
File size:
677 KB

Meet the Author

Jessie Burton was born in London in 1982. She studied at Oxford University and the Central School of Speech and Drama, and still works as an actress in London. She lives in southeast London, not far from where she grew up.

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The Miniaturist 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 75 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read it in one long evening today, not for the faint hearted, but a strong story line interesting characters. a historical novel well set and portrayed. A great spin on a famous doll house
emtgirlCV More than 1 year ago
This book was exceptional:) it was a bit slow in the beginning , then it started to pick up speed and read it with in a 48 hour time period :) It was  was character driven which I love and wonderful world building!  For those that DIDN'T read this book: SHAME on you for using this review site as a chat or pick up site . Authors depend on honest review and ratings! I see you using this as a way to ruin her " real " reviews!:( For the person that didn't know what the story was even about and gave it a low rating..... pick the book up and at the very least READ the synopsis. It may give you a clue! Then you may actually pick up and read it.  I'm just bad, that a few thoughtless people would do this.....please for all our sakes , Grow up! I shall be listing a more in depth review on Goode ads and other sites
Sandy-thereadingcafe More than 1 year ago
3.75 stars:  THE MINIATURIST is an historical fiction storyline set in seventeenth century Amsterdam. Told from close third person POV, this is the story of newlywed Nella Oortman –an eighteen year old young woman whose new and much older husband –merchant trader-Johannes Brandt is emotionally distant but not unkind. As the days blend into weeks Nella learns there are secrets within the Brandt household that will change her life forever. But a gift from her husband of a miniature replica of their home will begin to foretell of a dark and dangerous future. With each new miniature piece that arrives, Nella fears that someone is watching their every move. The storyline follows a few months in the life of Petronella Oortman Brandt whose relationship with her husband is a matter of convenience. Left alone to her own devices, Nella begins to uncover family secrets hidden behind closed doors and secret rooms. Johannes reputation as a trader has garnered him a few loyal followers but it is his dalliances on the side that will see the beginning of the end. A negotiated promise of sales fails to produce the desired results and someone will seek revenge. THE MINIATURIST is a storyline that is set in 1686 around the time of the sugar cane plantation exploitation and slavery in the British West Indies. As the Dutch begin to import the candied sweet the business of trading and selling is one of critical survival. Here in lies a part of the storyline where Johannes Brandt’s personal and private life become fodder for public consumption-the politics and religion of the time will show no mercy. Johanne’s sister Marin plays a major role throughout the storyline but like Johanne she is emotionally distant and lacks any sort of literary color. Most of the household members remain static in their development but Johanne’s one time friends will play a role in his downfall.  It is not until the end of the story that we get a glimpse into the Brandt family dynamics and the darker secrets that they share.  THE MINIATURIST is a well written, dark and dramatic tale about family, betrayal, love and loss. It is a tragic look at life in the 1600s-from slavery to racism; judgment and religion; health, welfare and survival in a world where people have set themselves upon a pedestal of unreachable heights. The miniaturist is always in the background but never thoroughly explored-there are so many unanswered questions as to the who and why of the miniaturist’s involvement in the story--for all intents and purposes another storyline is required to clear up some of the mystery and to acknowledge to what purpose the miniaturist played in their lives. There is a hint of the paranormal with the miniaturist’s prophetic gifts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put it down. Loved the setting in Amsterdam + the mysteries. Interesting female characters. Good ending.
TiredofGarbage More than 1 year ago
I have to agree with the Page Turner review - it is hard to put this one down. There is a storytelling gift at work here, and the author keeps many secrets up her sleeve until the final third of the book. Recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love historical novels, so when I saw the book jacket of The Miniaturist, I was intrigued. I found this story to be so interesting and unusual. I learned so much about 17th Century Amsterdam. There were so many twists and turns. It is definitely a page turner.
Mirella More than 1 year ago
Oh my goodness! This is one exceptionally incredibly good book! I cannot rave about it enough! The best way to describe The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is to call it heartrending novel with a great deal of mystery and a touch of magical fantasy. Rich with emotion and mystifyingly dark, this unique tale gripped me from the start and kept me turning each page, anxious to find out the secret of the miniaturist and the fate of the ever-evolving three-dimensional characters. The novel is set in 17th century Amsterdam and vividly depicts the social and economic living standards of the time. Eighteen year old Nella arrives in the city to the home of Johannes Brandt with whom a marriage has been arranged. But her groom is an enigma, odd in many ways, and distant, even though he is kind to her. Soon after the wedding, she receives a gift of a miniature replica of their home complete with furniture and little people resembling her, Johannes, and his sisters. She begins corresponding with the mysterious miniaturist, but is unable to discern who they are. The miniatures are not what they seem. In fact, they foretell the future. And it is this that adds tension and a great deal of conflict to the story. It is truly disconcerting. Through the miniatures, several dark secrets and tragedies occur, and Nella finds herself in a desperate frenzy to save those she loves. This is a clever, magnificently plotted novel. Although the opening chapters can be a little slow, with every page, the story unfolds and becomes ever more gripping. The dark secrets are revealed bit by bit, in a shocking way, so that one cannot help but race to the end. The story not only stirs up emotion, it shocks and sweeps the reader away with its opulent storyline. A truly magnificent novel, brilliantly written. 
JupFL_reader More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the historical aspects of the novel and the character development was very compelling. However, it was a great deal of build up for a somewhat dismal ending. I would say it is worth the time to read, but prepare for a bit of a let down. In addition, it is not a very uplifting book - very serious and somewhat dark.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A sad, dark tale with a hopeful ending & an unsolved mystery.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
The Miniaturist is the first novel by British author, Jessie Burton. Amsterdam in the late 1680s is a prosperous place for merchants of the VOC (Dutch East India Company). When eighteen-year-old Petronella Oortman, newly married to wealthy merchant, Johannes Brandt, arrives at his luxurious home on the Herengracht, she is nervous but expectant: surely her life can only get better now that she has left Assendelft.  But Johannes is absent, and his sister Marin is less than welcoming. When her husband finally returns, things do not go as Nella had expected. He does, however, bring her a remarkable gift: a replica of their home in miniature. She engages the services of a miniaturist to craft items to furnish this amazing creation, but is disturbed by the accuracy of certain extra pieces, pieces she did not order.  As Nella becomes familiar with the household, it is soon apparent that neither people nor circumstances are what they first seem, and that the life she had expected, and perhaps even hoped, for is unlikely to be the one she will have. Before long, she discovers the shocking truth about her marriage, learns disturbing facts about her husband’s business dealings, surprising truths about other household members and about the elusive but seemingly prescient miniaturist. Nella begins to realise that while there is abundant prosperity, there is very little tolerance in this Amsterdam “Where the pendulum swings from God to a guilder”. Within three months, this young innocent country girl has to draw on reserves she was unaware she had, along the way witnessing a drowning, a stabbing and a sexual act, attending a funeral, seeing a man condemned to death, bribing a prison guard, and handling the sale of a valuable commodity.   As she weaves a fictional world around real life characters, Burton also provides the reader with a wealth of information about late seventeenth century Amsterdam. Her extensive research is apparent in every paragraph. How interesting to imagine a time when sugar was rare enough to be a valuable commodity, and to actually view Nella’s cabinet house in the Rijksmuseum.  Burton also treats the reader to some marvellously evocative descriptive prose: “A spray of red pimples covers the second man’s forehead. He’s little more than a boy. God has been malicious with his paintbrush” and “The threads of Nella’s imagination begin to spool, embroidering conversations, patches of which it stitches loosely together” and “There is water everywhere she looks, lagoons as still as glass, patched with murk like a foxed mirror when the weak sun moves behind cloud” are just a few examples. This amazing debut novel is a brilliant read. 4.5 stars
SMHarris More than 1 year ago
A well written tale that includes a spray of mystery, THE MINIATURIST left port a little too slowly for me at the start of the journey. Once the story did set sail, I gladly clung to the railing, enjoying the very intense, emotional voyage. If the author had only visited an additional port or two before drawing the tale to a close, I would have given it five stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read and it only took two days to finish because I couldn't put it down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Miniaturist is a depressing nonsensical novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well drawn characters caught in mysterious circumstances. So many questions but who to ask for the answers. Who is ally and who is enemy. Once started you can't put it down. It captures the imagination
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A chapter or two into this book and I was wondering if I would finish it. I went to read the reviews to help me understand what the heck was going on, which helped. From then on I was hooked. What an original story, and so well written! It reminded me a little of Elizabeth Gilbert's THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS, not at all in the plot, but in how unique and original it is. So many novels are the same old, same old plots (i.e. woman returns to her childhood town and discovers some old family secrets and falls in love with the local handyman). This book was quite the page turner once I got into it, and I am so glad I didn't give up on it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Parts of this dragged on a little, but once I got going my interest was there. Learned some things about history of Europe, too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Slow moving at first then finally picks up and difficult tok put down. Very cdisappointed in the ending. Too many unanswered questiions. Had enough of authors asking their readers to figure out the ending. Gave 2stars because of interesting historical facts and storyline was great however the ending leaves so much to be desired
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
A great historical novel can transport you to a completely different time and place, a place you are unfamiliar with. Jessie Burton's The Miniaturist does just that. Set in 1686 Amsterdam, we meet young Petronella Oortman, who has just arrived at the home of her new husband, wealthy, influential merchant Johannes Brandt. Brandt is not there to greet his bride, but his sister, cold and imperious Marin is, along with the young maid/cook Cornelia, and Otto, the dark-skinned manservant to Johannes. Petronella is unhappy to find that her husband is gone and his return is unknown. When Johannes does show up, he shows no interest in his new bride. Nella is confused, but to appease his young wife, he gifts her with an exact replica miniature of her new home. He tells Petronella that she may order furnishings from the miniaturist to fill her new replica home. Johannes and Marin argue about Johannes' business. He has agreed to sell a large quantity of sugar for Frans and Agnes Meerman, a married couple with whom Marin and Johannes have a complicated relationship. The book is told through Nella's eyes, so we find out the history of this relationship as she does. When a package arrives from the miniaturist, it contains the items Nella ordered, along with a note that reads EVERY WOMAN IS THE ARCHITECT OF HER OWN FORTUNE. Nella is puzzled by this, and by the fact that there are more items than she ordered in the package. Exact replicas of two chairs, with the same carvings on them as the ones in the salon, along with a cradle, and replicas of Johannes two beloved dogs are also inside. Nella is shocked by how the miniaturist would know what the chair and dogs look like, having never been to her home, and what the cradle means. She sets out to find the miniaturist for an explanation, but is unsuccessful. And then more packages with cryptic notes continue to arrive. A scandal befalls Johannes and he is imprisoned. When Otto disappears after an altercation with a man who works for Johannes, that leaves only the women to carry on. Marin and Nella must pull together and find a way to sell the Meerman's sugar to get money to save Johannes. I loved watching Nella grow in strength. She began the story a young, naive woman, who knew little of the ways of life in Amsterdam, yet like the famous Eleanor Roosevelt saying- "Women are like teabags- you never know their strength until they are in hot water"- she rises to the occasion when it becomes necessary. We learn so much about the trading business, life in Amsterdam, the food they ate, how the people lived, their prejudices and laws, I found it so fascinating, even though I would have said before I read this book that I wasn't particularly interested in this time period. The Miniaturist is a book that kept me reading on the treadmill just a little bit longer each time I read it, unwilling to put it down. There are strong female characters, a bit of the supernatural in regards to how the miniaturist knew what she did about the family, and a suspenseful plot that propelled the reader to continue on. Burton shares her research at the end of the book, which was extensive, and she includes a photo of the actual miniature house that belonged to the real Petronella Oortman that resides in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. You can bet I will be looking for information on the real Petronella Oortman. The Miniaturist will definitely be on my list of Most Compelling Reads of 2014- it's brilliant and breathtaking, and the fact that Jessie Burton is a debut author is astonishing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
However she has many historical inaccuracies or rather in general mistakes no doubt to forward plot. As with many books lately endings are left incomplete and jammed into last chapters having too much superficial "color" fillers and padding. This could have "worked" better without paranormal one could still have had doll house. more like a retelling of Rebecca
Anonymous 8 months ago
A wonderful story, difficult to stop reading as you yearn to discover what will happen. Look forward to reading more from her. ~*~LEB~*~
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im glad I read the reviews before deciding whether or not to continue reading, because for me, a book without a MC romance/connection to propel it, will not keep my interest and therefore just isnt worth my time. For others who arent in need of at least a bit of romance, this book would probobly hold their interest.....the writing is very good and the story-line seems intriguing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written and different from anything read before. Will be looking forward to her next novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very interesting story line. Having been to Amsterdam it was fun to envision the story unfold. Good character development. Took me to tears at one point.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was difficult to put down. The characters were well developed and I found myself anxious for the next shoe to drop. I was somewhat disappointed as to the ending, but I hope it was a set up for a sequel. I would recommend this novel,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pulls at your heartstrings, & engages your imagination