The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Book Review | Rating – 3/5 | Genre – Historical Fiction

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. 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 . . .

(synopsis from Goodreads)

My first thoughts

I remember being intrigued by the book a lot before I even got it, with the book cover really interesting me. It was only when I got it and discovered it was historical fiction I was then put off to the point of not reading it for months. A month ago I conceded and decided now was the time to give this book a go and boy was I happy to have given it a chance. Only a couple chaptes in I found myself instantly engrossed in the story, I wasn’t necessarily taken in by the characters, but the general plot really had me wondering what was going to happen.

What did I enjoy?

  • The mystery – so the whole plot is based around Nella receiving a small replica of her home in order to pass time in her new home and to feel less alone (yes it’s a pretty patronising gift). However, she soon starts receiving strange miniatures of people or objects in the house that start to foretell what will happen in the future. As more items appear I began to take more interest into the reason for the house existing.
  • Marin Brandt – Johannes’ sister, was probably the only character I actually kind of liked, and even then that took as while because she starts off being completely unlikeable. I found myself enjoying her appearance in her book as she had such sharp wit and brutal honesty that just made the other characters uncomfortable and unsure of her. For me it just made me like her more.
  • It changed my mind – I think what I liked the most, was that this book changed my expectations of what a historical fiction book could be. After years of reading mind-numbingly dull books from this genre I thought I was put off for life. Now, I’m not saying I’m a true convert to the genre, merely stating that this book has persuaded me to give other books in this genre more of a chance before dismissing them.

Where could it improve?

As much as I enjoyed the book, there was still something missing that stopped me from loving it. Even reading this review, it has made me realise that the ending came across as slightly unsatisfactory. It has almost come across as if the ending took away all meaning and point from the rest of the story. I also found myself slightly disappointed that the miniature house didn’t seem to be of much point to the plot. Maybe I missed something when reading it, but by the end the appearance of the house just seemed to give Nella something to ponder about every now and then.

I’m also going to point out that I originally gave the book a 4/5 rating, but after writing the review out and thinking more about what I read, I realised I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I initially did.

In Conclusion… Overall, as a first experience of reading a historical fiction book outside of any sort of studying, I can say that I did enjoy this book. I would definitely recommend for those who do enjoy books from this genre as it will definitely be up your street. Heck, I can imagine its great for people who love the genre if it was able to win me over slightly more towards reading more historical fiction.


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