All the blogger reviews I read were right; The Miniaturist is an excellent book!
* CONTAINS SPOILERS
Eighteen year-old, Nella Oortman, escapes the poverty of her family and the boredom of the country by marrying much older Amsterdam merchant, Johannes Brandt. From the first moment she sets foot in the Brandt household, Nella is overwhelmed by the strangeness of Johannes’ family, especially Johannes’ sister Marin’s cold and hostile feelings towards her. What’s even more confusing is that Johannes seems to have little interest in his new wife or consummating the marriage. He is friendly towards Nella, but remains distant both physically and emotionally. When Johannes gives Nella a miniature cabinet-sized replica of their house as a wedding gift, she hates it; but upon seeing the advertisement by a local miniaturist, she begins ordering pieces. To her astonishment, the miniaturist sends her pieces that are both an uncanny resemblance to people or objects in the Brandt home, or eerily predict events that dramatically affect her new family. Who is this mysterious miniaturist? What is he trying to tell her? As one shattering secret after another is revealed, Nella tries to understand the miniaturist’s messages before it’s too late.
The Miniaturist is a richly detailed mystery with plenty of whispering, key-hole peeping and strange behaviour that kept me intrigued and guessing how the story would end. I liked Nella as a protagonist because although she was naïve and lacked confidence, the girl was no pushover and persevered in earning respect in a world where women were expected to stay home and keep quiet. I also admired how the love Nella felt for her husband grew out her appreciation for his qualities as a person.
The mystery surrounding the actual miniaturist and supernatural forces, real or imagined, of the pieces for Nella’s cabinet fell completely flat for me. None of the explanations provided at the end made sense. It was build-up to a whole lot of nothing.
For a debut novel, Jessie Burton has written a winner. Despite the few complaints I have about The Miniaturist (including its title), I thought the book was a riveting drama that describes seventeenth century Amsterdam in satisfyingly lavish detail.