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Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

 

 
Overview
 

Highlights: Johannes's stern, highly religious sister, Marin, is a strange character, resentful of Nella's presence. The women's cool attitude towards each other quickly becomes one of the main conflicts of the book.
 
Synopsis: The Miniaturist details the experiences of new bride Petronella Brandt as she navigates her new husband's household as well as life in Amsterdam during the 1680s. As a wedding gift, Johannes purchases an expensive miniature of their home for Nella to have as a distraction. Weird things begin to take place, and as Nella attempts to unravel the mystery of the miniaturist's creations, she starts to understand how they connect to the happenings in her own life.
 
Genre:
 
Rating:
 
Plot
C-


 
Writing
C


 
Characters
C-


 
Fun Factor
C-


 
Reading Recommendation
C-


 
Total Score
C-
6/ 14


User Rating
no ratings yet

 

Positives


Although I was ultimately disappointed after all the buzz about this debut novel, I kept reading until the very end; I wanted to know what all these secrets were.

Negatives


The author does not flesh out her characters and allows too much confusion. Occurrences become predictable very quickly, and the Dutch words and phrases serve no purpose.


0
Posted December 15, 2014 by

 
Full Article
 
 


With her first novel, The Miniaturist, author Jessie Burton proves that some debuts create more buzz than they warrant. While The Miniaturist does garner a reader’s attention, the book is fraught with issues that prevent it from deserving the hype surrounding it.

Author Jessie Burton. Picture from Burton's website www.jessieburton.co.uk/.

Author Jessie Burton. Picture from Burton’s website, www.jessieburton.co.uk.

The Miniaturist details the experiences of new bride Petronella Brandt as she attempts to navigate her way through her husband’s household as well as life in Amsterdam during the 1680s. Nella, as she is more often called, arrives on the doorsteps of her new husband’s home without a clue of what to expect, but she dreams of love, happiness, and children. Her mother tries to warn her that she shouldn’t want both “the peaches and the cream,” but Nella has big ideas for her marriage to the much older Johannes Brandt, a wealthy merchant.

Before she can even get her foot in the door, Nella’s illusions are dashed to bits when she meets Johannes’s stern, highly religious sister, Marin. Marin has always run the Brandt household, and she seems to have no intention of letting this newcomer usurp her position. She’s a strange one, that Marin. Outwardly cold and venomous, she must have been beautiful and passionate once, for the hidden love letter that Nella finds in one of Marin’s books is surprising in its ardor: “I love you. I love you. From back to front, I love you.” Who is the mystery writer who admires the difficult Marin so much? Nella must try to answer this and many other questions before she’ll ever understand the complicated Brandt siblings.

The women’s cool attitude towards each other quickly becomes one of the main conflicts of the work, but Nella also cannot figure out why her husband will not share their marriage bed, nor can she begin to fathom why he employs a saucy maid like Cornelia or has a black servant named Otto. Much is strange about this house, and unfortunately, it gets stranger as time progresses.

Still, Johannes is not unkind to Nella, and as a wedding gift, he even purchases an expensive, though unusual, miniature of their home for Nella to have as a distraction. At first appalled by the tiny house, Nella decides to employ a miniaturist to furnish it. When the miniaturist’s tiny parcels start to arrive, Nella is taken aback because they are too much like the furnishings and people who live in the real house. Weird things begin to take place, and as Nella attempts to unravel the mystery of the miniaturist’s creations, she starts to understand how they connect to the happenings in her own life.

The premise of The Miniaturist is interesting, but that’s where any praise for the work ends. The author does not flesh out her characters, she allows too much confusion to go on for entirely too long, and then when she does begin to let the reader in on the truth, occurrences become predictable very quickly. In addition to the issues with plot and character, Burton inserts Dutch words and phrases throughout the book. A glossary is provided at the end of the novel to help the reader decipher the foreign terminology, but really, what is the point? The Dutch words do not move the action of the work along; instead, they are a distraction that forces the reader to take the time to look up their meaning in a book that already plods.

The Miniaturist is not without some merit. I wanted to know what all the secrets were. Why won’t Johannes sleep with Nella? Why won’t Johannes sell Meerman’s sugar? What is the relationship between Cornelia and Otto? Who is the miniaturist, and will we ever get to see this elusive figure? What on earth is going on in this book? Although most of the revelations were disappointing, I kept reading until the very end, and apparently, so did many other people because the book has received mixed reviews from a variety of sources.

Miniaturist

An interesting first novel from Jessie Burton, The Miniaturist shows potential from this new voice. Hopefully, Burton will work out the kinks in her characters and plot, though, before her next release.


Mollie Smith Waters

 
Mollie Smith Waters teaches American literature, theater, and speech at a small community college in rural Alabama. Her hobbies include reading, writing, traveling, and walking.


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