“The Miniaturist” by Jessie Burton

The Miniaturist

(Author: Jessie Burton) + (Year: 2014) + (Goodreads)


1. Cover love!

Let me back up here.
I stumbled upon this book and I thought the concept was interesting, even though I’m not a fan of historical books. I recently got a hold of it and I was in a hurry to read it.

Summary: Nella is a girl of almost 18 years whose father dies and she is forced to marry a rich merchant, Johannes Brandt, from Amsterdam and leave her village. Upon arrival, however, she realizes that her new husbands household, consisting of his spinster sister Marin, an unfriendly maid, named Cornelia, and a black manservant, called Otto. Nella’s husband is often away on trips and she is left to her own devices in the hostile house, her only solace being the miniature figurines a mysterious miniaturist sends to her. Soon after, however, her life and the lives of the entire Brandt family are turned upside down and now Nella has to learn to stand up for herself and protect the people that she loves.


Nella is at first portrayed as very shy and obedient, but in a way I found endearing as much as it was sad. All of her attempts to win over her husband were pitifully sweet. I couldn’t help feel sorry for her and I really hoped that she and Johannes will find their way to one another. I thought that this was going to be a “Pride and Prejudice” sort of thing, and boy was I wrong.
In the second part of the book we see Nella grown up, less shy and timid, much more decisive. I liked her like this and I was glad she managed to develop instead of staying a little girl who needs help to do everything.

Johannes was the character through which the author was trying to preach her philosophy. At first I thought he was charming and despite the fact that he was being described as such until the end, he lost his charm for me near the beginning. I think he is actually a spoiled rich man who has too much money and time on his hands. He was absolutely selfish and blatantly so. His pathetic attempts to be nice to his wife were painful to read about and proving how inconsiderate he is of anyone but his own self.

Marin and the Meermans were very shallow and underdeveloped. The author shows one side of them, the one they show to the world, and then heavily underlines the fact that all three of them have hidden identities and then just barely scrapes the surface of those and shows the result of their actions without explaining the actions themselves. It’s one thing to leave it to the reader to understand a character when you’ve showed them through different perspective and another to expect the reader to guess what was going on without any explanation whatsoever.
For example:
What happened to Agnes in the court?
What drove Agnes to her behaviour?
What was Agnes and Frans’ coversation after the dinner in the Brandt house all about?
What happened to Marin and Frans and Otto?

The Miniaturist : this is this book’s unforgivable negligence. It’s called The Miniaturist, and yet one, the miniaturist is barely there, two, nothing is said about her, she is yet another flat character, three, how exactly can one explain her near supernatural ability to “predict” things with her figurines? Are you really going to tell me she managed to spy on 50 different families to gather enough information about all of them? It just sounds silly and stupid. I think the author had a stroke of genius for this character to a certain degree and then she didn’t know what to do with it later. EXTRAORDINARY DISAPPOINTMENT.


Jesse Burton manages to make some great points in this book. She points out many things that might have been a problem in the 17th century and sadly, however, haven’t changed much throughout the ages. Among those are racism, attitude toward homosexuality, the greed and vanity of society, and the one I liked the best: feminism.

I read this book just a couple of weeks, if not less, after Emma Watson’s fantastic speech for the UN. THe Miniaturist paints a world where no matter how good a woman is at what she does, she can never be equally praised as a man can be. The sad truth is, even today, when we consider ourselves so developed, a woman can still do the same job as a man, she can even do it better, and she is never likely to get the same money for it. I wish people would try and think about such things before declaring themselves “intelligent” and “progressive”.

Finale. SPOILERS!!!

The second part of this book is a letdown. It quickly turns from the subject of the miniaturist and Nella’s hardships, to a family drama of the sort I really and truly hate. I was in suspense for so long, I was going through this book as fast as humanly possible, and for what? So that I can get a page and a half of the miniaturist’s father telling Nella that the miniaturist didn’t come from an egg.

Nothing was really explained in this book.

Most of all, what was the significance of the miniaturist at all? What was the significance of the fact that she was also called Petronella?

I feel that’s the bit that makes the book as shallow and pointless as it is. Since the miniaturist signifies the theme of the book, as unexplained as the miniaturist is, so is the story. What is this story even about? Is it redemption? Because nobody was redeemed of any sin. Is it forgiveness? If so, who was the forgiven, who was the forgiving? Was it love? I found none. Was the miniaturist supposed to be the thing that made Nella grow up? I can’t possibly see this as being true. Nella doesn’t grow up because someone sends her figurines but because she is the only person that can care for this family. So where exactly was this novel supposed to lead.

I’m really frustrated right now. I am left with more questions then there were answers in this book. Who, what, why, when, how??? All of those can be asked about each and every character, up to a point when you realize that it’s highly probable that there was never a great idea in this book. There was a concept and the author failed in trying to make a good story out of it.


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