Book Review: The Miniaturist (Jessie Burton)



Published: 24.08.2014
Author: Jessie Burton
Genre: Thriller/History 
Follow Jessie | Goodreads 
England / ISBN: 0062306812
– Contains mild spoilers –

The Miniaturist, this story will take you to the heart of 17th century Amsterdam, and all it meant for life, at some pages, at least. What I must say about this book and what I admired on it is the ease with which it is read. The pages fall right into you, and as in music, we have an easy-listening type, this book would be easy-reading.

The research Jessie Burton did is ever so clear. The book itself comes with little vocabulary and even prices, to introduce you to the way things used to work.
All this to tell you a story fitted into an actual reality, but sadly, so many things fail on this front. As much as I wish Nella could learn to be a merchant in a week time, or move unescorted around at the time, let alone learn to effectively bribe, all in last moments, sadly, it is not possible. Certainly not for 1700 country-girl. Perhaps in spirit, but not in action. The realism, so carefully build within the book, falls apart.

In the story, we meet 18-year old Nella, at the first pages newly married girl, godly and naive, but as the story unravels, Nella becomes strong in situations where, if we are being realistic, she could never succeed. Nella comes to Amsterdam, to the family she married into, meets her never a present husband, Johannes, his cold and mysterious sister Marin, and their servants, saved slave Otto and saved orphan, Cornelia.

Jessie Burton
English author Jessie Burton

While adjusting to her new and confusing life, in cold and unwelcoming house, Nella is given a cabinet and connection with strange Miniaturist, a person that creeps in shadows, yet remains a mystery until the very last page. She perhaps sees into the soul of the characters but predicts ways, that have no part of the soul, rather the physical form of life. And that has been a problem for me with this book. While soul may determine in a broad sense, where a person goes, this would be work of puppeteer, cruel one at best and with lost control.


The story, while beautifully written, lacks believability but also a climax. In the end, you wonder if the soul was what the mysterious artists saw, or what was the real purpose. But you do not wonder enough, because the way this book takes you, it leaves too many spots blind.

So, instead of wondering what it might mean, you simply feel that the story has not given you enough, that instead of describing the naked bodies, it could take you to the mystery of the Miniaturist and it’s true purpose itself. And that for me is really a shame because the book was truly beautifully written and has the power to entertain you for long hours.

The main problem is the characters, in all 400 pages, there was not enough space for them to nor develop, nor bond. And the story falls apart on that very fact because while it tried to give us a story to some of them, it cuts right in the middle. And that is not suspense, that is more of a shame.

On the other hand, what this book does. It portrays very painfully how Europe, for so many centuries has clearly been a man’s world, but also the heavy influence of religion and idealism, that was still being shaped. The absolute power of Church and the hypocrisity and ignrance. In that emotional sense, from the view of Marin and Johannes Brandt, this story, would be perfectly told. 

BBC adaptation is to air in 2017


If you’ve fallen in love with the book, you can also look forward to it’s adaptation to the small screen. The BBC has recently announced the cast:  Anya Taylor-Joy , Romola Garai and Alex Hassell, alongside Paapa Essiedu, Hayley Squiresand Emily Berrington.

The Miniaturist will become miniseries in three parts, each of 60 minutes. Adapted by  John Brownlow, it will air later in 2017. For more information see this link


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