The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton

I just finished the Miniaturist. I say just, about a week ago. I haven’t reviewed a book in a while, I’m not sure how I used to do this, but here we are. A review of the Miniaturist.

The book
The Minituarist is about a young woman named Nella Oortman who moves from Assendelft to Amsterdam in the late 1600s. She has just wed Johannes Brandt, an older Amsterdamer merchant trader in the VOC. Brandt spends most of his time at his office or in his study and doesn’t really talk to Nella. She wants to fulfill her wifely duties, but he rebuffs her. She spends most of her time with her sister-in-law, Marin, and the servants, Cornelia and Otto, a former slave Johannes bought, and then employed. To keep Nella occupied Johannes buys her a replica of their house, and Nella engages the services of a Miniaturist to furnish it. Through these miniatures she learns about her house and her new family. 

I really liked it. It was really odd. I thought Nella was sort of hired the miniaturist, but I liked that the miniaturist sort of stalked her and kept sending Nella stuff without Nella wanting it. It was weird. Nella was sort of trapped in this house with her sister-in-law and servants, without anything to do, and she sees her aches and her fears and displeasure reflected in this cabinet house. I liked that. I’m sounding a bit insane I realize, but I like creepiness.

I liked how society bled into the book. Amsterdam, and the Netherlands in general, was a huge economical force in the late 1600s. And even if Johannes’ sister Marin worries about money their house is one of opulence. Johannes is a merchant trader in the VOC and he is held to their standards and they were at times brutal.

The church of the Netherlands also bleeds in. They outlaw recreations of faces in dolls and other things. So when Marin finds some of the miniatures in Nella’s house she gets furious. It’s interesting how intensely strict the church was and how much of life it took up.

It fascinated me that Johannes behaved in the way that he did. I can’t explain this properly without spoiling something huge, but he has a big, life-ruining secret. He also has this huge deal he’s working on. Another trader has asked him to sell his sugar. It’s an interesting trade/sale (if you’re a nerd), because sugar wasn’t under any of the laws of the VOC so Johannes can sell it to anyone for any price they are willing to sell. (See, I’m a nerd.) And because Johannes really doesn’t like the man whose wife owns the sugar, he dawdles. This leads to just so much animosity and so much passive-aggressive awfulness.

It was good. It was also really just weird. It seemed a little unlikely that everything awful just seemed to happen out of nowhere. Obviously since it’s told from Nella’s perspective it just seems like everything happened at once. It’s stuff that’s been brewing and bubbling, and maybe Nella is just a catalyst for it. It just felt like a lot was happening. So much stuff going on. I can’t really explain what happened without spoiling everything. There’s Johannes and his whole thing, things, and Marin has something going on, and that’s also a huge thing, a huge, world-shattering, goes-against-everything-you-should-do-in-17th-century Netherlands-thing. So there’s just so much. And it’s made to feel like even more because of the Miniaturist sending Nella the miniatures and sort of upsetting her life, and describing it. It just felt like a lot of horrible stuff happening.

I still loved it, it was very beautiful. And you know, Amsterdam. I might need to go back to Amsterdam. I’m coming to such great decisions. It’s not a massive surprise. Obviously I’m going back. Shut up. Okay.


﷽﷽﷽﷽﷽﷽﷽﷽ a bit insane I realize. this cabinet house. I liked that. I'sees her aches and her d re house and her family.

I really liked it. I thought it was beautiful and interesting, and odd, which I always like. So I liked it. Whoo.