The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

Original book title: The Miniaturist
Author: Jessie Burton
Publisher: Pocketförlaget, 382 pages
Year of publication: 2016
Format: Paperback
Language: Swedish

First and foremost, I need to talk about the cover! It’s beautiful, magical and exciting. I stared at the cover a long while before I started reading the book; it contained so many beautiful small details.

The book is set in the late 1600s and the story begins one autumn day when eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman is knocking on the door of a large house in Amsterdam’s wealthiest neighborhoods. She has been married off to a wealthy merchant – Johannes Brandt. But all she is getting when she first arrives is hostility and secrets. Johannes sister, Marin doesn’t seem to be happy to have her there, and Johannes himself did not turn up to welcome her. It is not until much later that he comes home and gives her a wedding gift – a dollhouse that is an exact replica of their home. Nella gets in contact with a mysterious miniaturist that sends tiny creations that are frighteningly similar to both the people in the house and its secrets.

I probably had too high expectations of this book. I thought it would be more mysterious and contain more magical realism than it did. Unfortunately, it didn’t, but I’m not too disappointed because it was a very good book. It is a slow, yet eventful story. The book addresses many dimensions of 1600s Amsterdam like prejudices, women’s position in society and the importance of religion. The language is the best part of this book. The author’s way of describing feelings and surroundings were amazing. It really felt as if I was in the big house with Nella and in the streets of Amsterdam. The dialogues seemed credible, given it had slipped in some modern words, but it was nothing that stopped the flow of the language.

All the characters in the book are exciting and multi-dimensional. The protagonist Nella, whose real name is Petronella, was strong and brave. Her way to go straight to the point and try to ferret out the secrets hidden in her new life was both entertaining and impressive. Nella felt unique and innovative. Even the other characters were strong in the story. Marin’s character felt at first flat and sometimes as a stereotype of a bitter woman but the more I got to know her, the more she grew. Johannes himself was a mysterious character in the beginning, neither I, as a reader or Petronella got any feeling for him. It took a while before even he blossomed into an interesting character.

This story may not be like that magical as I had wanted it, but it didn’t bother me. It is full of amazing characters, lovely environment descriptions and exciting story.