Set in 17th-century Amsterdam - a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion - a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.
"There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed...."
On a brisk autumn day in 1686, 18-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 world 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’ gift helps Nella to 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, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.
©2014 Peebo & Pilgrim Ltd (P)2014 HarperCollinsPublishers
I had to force myself to finish this book. The characters weren't developed enough to make the story believable. Davina Porter's narration was great as always.
If it had a good screenwriter.
i like to read. i like to listen.
Really well written book. It made me sad to read, but kept me fascinated with the magic and history and characters. It's a book about secrets and more secrets. And as each of the secrets came to be revealed more and more trouble fell upon the characters. I truly didn't want the story to end...I could have followed these characters infinitely.
Burton gives us a novel set in 17th century Amsterdam, a booming mercantile center. Young Nella has arrived from the country, newly married, only to find that her husband Johannes is away on business and that her harsh sister-in-law, Marin, rules the roost. When he returns, he presents her with a wedding gift that he believes will keep her busy: a cabinet designed like their house, but empty. It's Nella's task to fill it, and she contacts by mail a miniaturist to create the first pieces. When the package arrives, there are additional, unordered pieces that are astonishingly identical to reality. How does the miniaturist know so much about the Brandt home? Even more strangely, some of the figures representing the family start to change . . . and Nella begins to feel that she is living in a house of secrets.
This novel was really slow-going at first, so slow that I almost gave up on it. While I'm glad that I stuck with it to the end, there were a number of problems. First, we never really learn exactly who the miniaturist is or how she knows so much. At times, Nella seems almost too naive, and she and other characters change far too abruptly to be believable. The ending--well, lets just say that we're somewhat left hanging. While it feels like a conclusion, again, there are just too many holes
This book kept my attention, but is not one I would re-read. It is hard to imagine the attachments the main character feels toward her "husband" and his sister especially in such a short time- 4 months. There was nothing alluring about Johannes and I think especially given the time period she had more reason to feel used and cheated than to feel any admiration. The reasons given or suggested feel very flimsy. I liked the character of Nella and the two servants though. They were well developed. Not sure the minitureist actually made any impact in the story whatsoever, it was kind of odd side plot that didn't really fit the story or work for me at all.
Life long compulsive reader & lover of recorded books
I found this book entertaining but flawed. This is the story of a bride who enters a family she barely knows, how she comes to be a true part of that family and carries it forward regardless of the very inauspicious beginnings of her relationship with the other members of the family. I enjoyed listening to this book but once is enough.
Without giving anything away, there is a particular scene in the book where the reason for the issues Lena is experiencing with her husband become suddenly revealed to her. It is hard for this particular scene not to be memorable.
Davina Porter's narration certainly added depth to the characters. The female characters in this book were well developed and congruent; the male characters remained shallow; they also benefited from Porter's reading.
The relationship between Johannes and Lena is the backbone of this book and what gives it meaning. It is unfortunate that the supposed depth of the feelings and commitment they develop toward each other is not substantiated by their interactions and conversation in the novel. I enjoy period pieces and, as such, I enjoyed this book (although the degree of detail for us to develop a real notion of what life was like in 17th Century Netherlands is really not there...we just get to see a postcard). All in all, this book had a lot of promise...we are kept guessing through it...but most of the promise remains unfulfilled.
Not sure who would enjoy this. It was scattered and clumsy.
She lost track of who was who.
Disappointment. Lack everything and tried too hard to encompass so much, but fell very short on all accounts.
I tried to be hopeful that the book would get better. Other reviewers said it was slow at the start. There was just nothing good about this book. Poor plot, shallow characters and just felt like the author tried to put every thought in.
The book is well narrated though there were times I had trouble keeping the dialogue straight based on the voices.
As for the story it is very good. The character development at the beginning was a bit slow but needed. The story is well illustrated in words and sufficiently detailed to depict the period. The content is at times distressing and a discussion on moral debate, love (marriage, family, friendship), prejudges, greed, ambition, and personal growth. (The human condition)
One suspects quickly that the hastily arranged marriage between the rural 18 year old Nella Oortman and merchant trader Johannes Brandt will not be a happy one. Why has Johannes married her, brought her to Amsterdam and then with some emotional cruelty deserts her, not only in travel, but in daily interactions.
Johannes does give Nella a beautiful cabinet, an adult size doll house which is a kind of a miniature of their home ostensibly intended to be used by a young woman to learn how to run a home. “The accuracy of the cabinet is eerie, as if the real house has been shrunk, its body sliced in two and its organs revealed.”
As secrets are revealed, Nellie continues to love, and grows in her devotion to her husband, despite their incompatibility. They slowly forge a friendship if not a marriage.
As Johannes travels and works to keep the family affluent and in good social standing, his sister Marin is Nella's only companion and is at turns cold, puzzling and aloof.
Meanwhile, Nellie tries to commission miniature pieces for the cabinet Johannes had given her, but she is never able to meet the miniaturist and the pieces that arrive sporadically but seem to indicate that the artist knows what is going on inside the house. They give a sense of foreboding. Are they clues of well-being or menacing harbingers.
The character of Nellie is inconstant - oscillating from naive and silly to wise with strong feminist insights.
There are unforeseen twists and turns and stunning revelations that move the story along in a compelling way and as the concealed becomes open to Marin, her choices will determine the outcome for them all.
Despite some unevenness in Nellie's character, this book is spellbinding read.
I didn't find this deep or interesting, except for the parts about the city of Amsterdam. Generally the plot was sketchy, the motives and actions of the characters suspect, and the entire thing was way too vague. I am pretty good at reading subtle books, but I found this empty rather than subtle. Not recommended but not irredeemably awful I suppose.
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