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The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton – Doll houses, Uncanny Events. And a Late Review

24th June, 2016

Book Review : The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

An 18 year old wife, new to Amsterdam, is given a mysterious wedding gift – a cabinet sized doll’s house. Very soon she starts receiving mysterious packages to furnish the house, always coinciding with the changes happening in the items in the household and its inhabitants. Who is the miniaturist? Does someone have the power to predict the future or are their lives being controlled by some unknown force?

This was a book that I read in the beginning of this year and greatly enjoyed. However I couldn’t bring myself to review it because  of one small (rather big) fact that I disliked in this book. The story is very interesting though.

WHAT PROMPTED ME TO READ IT?

The amazing blurb sounds really eerie- imagine getting presents and then having to witness in reality what the presents predict!

And what is more strange, Petronella Oortman was real woman with a real dollhouse that you can view at Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. The story is purely fictional and not biographical, but that does add an extra edge to any reader’s curiosity.  Here is a picture of the actual doll house.

Petronella (Nella) Oortman, arrives in Amsterdam as an eighteen year old wife. As a wedding present given in the name of being a “distraction”, Johannes, her husband, presents Nella with an exquisite miniature version of their marital home. The doll house, if we may call it so, is an exact replica, correct down to pictures, utensils and tiny dolls of its inhabitants. This gift enchants and disturbs Nella. Her husband seems to avoid her at all costs, locked in his study or hiding away in his the office at the warehouse. She feels caged as Johannes’s sister, Marian, doesn’t seem willing to part with her command over the house, the servants and even her brother.

Then, comes gifts for the cabinet from the mysterious miniaturist. Small additions to the house arriving unasked for. Nella has to find out if the miniaturist is a prophet or a spy for the miniature presents she receives begin to dictate the course of events in the house, sometimes with very painful consequences.

WHAT I LOVED?

1. The PROSE :

The imagery and  language is breath taking. Burton brings everything to life, be it the hustle and bustle of the market, the unrelenting quietness of the mansion, the vivid colors in hidden rooms or curious artifacts that are mysterious in their own ways.

2. THE GREED vs RELIGIOUS SENTIMENTS :

Marin, is an embodiment of  piety. She sneers at Nella’s love of marzipan because sugar “makes people’s souls sick”, nags her brother to sell it and feasts on  candied walnuts on the sly.

3. DETAILS :

The details in the book are excellent. Burton seamlessly deals with issues of gender, race, sexuality in the book. However when I finished the book I did feel the issues seem to be cramped up towards the end of the novel .

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

WHAT I LOATHED?

You know that feeling when you so greatly enjoy a read that you are waiting for the grand moment of its reveal – the mystery of the miniaturist, the marriage and the bossy sister? Well …

THE CLIMAX :

This book is wonderfully written. It snatches you away from the comfort of your reading nook to the eerie Gothic like setting of Nella’s mansion and the mysterious ways of the miniaturist. Three fourth of the novel builds up the suspense so high that you just can’t stop reading. And then…

Then it falls flat. Flat that it hurts you as if you fell on your back from a great height. I wish the ending was more well done and the climax a bit more theatrical. I was very disappointed with the end.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

RATING THE BOOK AND FINAL VERDICT :

That’s all. Just one bad thing for me about the book. It is a great read and I was actually transported to Amsterdam of 1600s while reading through.

When I started reading it, I was pretty sure it would be a 4 plus rating. And then I thought, maybe it deserves a 4.5. If I could have the book split into two, I would give 4 for three fourth the novel and maybe 3 or even lesser for the last quarter.

I would definitely recommend it for the brilliance of the first half. But do keep your expectations low of the ending of the book. Also, I think Jessie Burton is a fantastic writer and she does a lot of research before writing her novels, something I whole heartedly appreciate. She is a writer with a lot of potential. This might not be her finest, but it is a great debut. I will be looking forward to reading her new book, The Muse.

Title : The Miniaturist
Author : Jessie Burton
Publisher : Picador
Published : 2015
Language : English
Pages : 424
Rating : 3.5/5

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Have you read The Miniaturist? Did you enjoy the read? Are you looking forward to Jessie Burton’s new release The Muse?

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The Miniaturist

About the Author

Jessie Burton studied at Oxford University and The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, and worked for nine years as an actress and a PA before her first novel, The Miniaturist, was published. The Miniaturist was translated into over thirty languages. She lives in London.

This Post Has 44 Comments
  1. I keep debating with myself whether or not to read this. It sounds so good, but I’ve heard mixed feelings about it.

    1. Maybe you can borrow a copy? The writing is so good and the prose makes everything come alive. Except for the climax I loved everything about the book. Hope you will enjoy the read if you pick it up.

  2. Ohh great review, it sounds really interesting, I love the synopsis! Too bad the ending was kind of a let down, I hate when that happens…I might eventually check this out though, because I really like the whole idea, and the writing seems promising 🙂

    1. It is an excellent read Marie. I am sure you will love it. The writing makes the Gothic setting of Jane Eyre and mysterious mansions come alive. Except for the ending I loved this read. If the ending was different I might have rated it higher too. Hope you can get a copy at the library or something.

  3. I enjoyed this book too, but I remember feeling that the mystery surrounding the miniaturist was never fully resolved. I’m not sure whether The Muse sounds as appealing to me as this one did, but I’m still looking forward to reading it.

    1. I didnt read the blurb of The Muse yet. I just thought it would be a good book since Jessie Burton does seem to have a lot of potential. I feel exactly the same as you. There was no big reveal for the miniaturist. That really spoiled things. But the first half was so good

  4. Yes! This is EXACTLY how I felt about the book. Oh my gosh I was so excited to read it based on the synopsis, and then even as I was reading it I totally LOVED IT. All the creepy changes with the miniature pieces and stuff?! YES! I was loving every second of it. And then I couldn’t wait for the climax and….. 100% agree that it fell so incredibly flat. It was such a disappointment for what was otherwise a really cool book! I probably would have rated it almost exactly the same.

    1. Glad you feel the same. I was so curious about who the miniaturist is, and how the pieces work that way. I thought the sister, Marin was the villain for a long time. But the ending, really dampened everything! She began focussing on the husband and the miniaturist had a unmemorable entry compared to the dramatic climax I was expecting

  5. I’ve read good and bad about the book, but I think the fact that the ending fails would leave me very unsatisfied indeed – I’m kind of reluctant to invest a lot of time in a book if that’s going to happen!

    1. I see what you mean. The book did leave me unsatisfied . Though I try to defend it saying how good the first part was. Burton has a lot of potential as a writer. And I am looking forward to her other works. I think The Miniaturist was a good debut, if not perfect.

  6. I read this book last year and I agree with your comments. I too was disappointed with the ending but loved the earlier parts of the book.

  7. Oh no, the ending sounds so disappointing! I have started this book a few times, but never made it past the first chapter. Maybe I should give it a try again, just with lower expectations for the ending.

  8. I haven’t read this one yet, although I’ve mostly seen good reviews for it. Your gripe with the ending actually makes me more curious to read it, rather than less. 🙂

  9. One of the reasons I really wanted to read this one was not only did the premise sound interesting, but it’s also set in Amsterdam and seeing as I come from the Netherlands, it seemed pretty fitting to compare it to real life. I have also been to the Rijksmuseum before, and I have seen the house! So that will make it all the more interesting for me, seeing as I am still going to be trying this one out.

    1. Wow. That sounds so interesting. In that case you should definitely read the book. Though the story is fictional,(I googled. The real Nella had an okay family life and even a daughter) it is very intriguing to read about it, especially since you have seen the house. There are not many descriptions of Amsterdam but you might be able to relate to it more than me. As long as you keep the expectations low for the ending, it will be a good read

    1. Yes it was such a shame because in the first half she has beautifully described the gothic like places and situations. I think she wrote the first half so well that all the readers expected a big reveal. But it was a non suspenseful climax.

  10. I felt exactly the same way about this book – it promised so much but I don’t think the ending offered any closure. I was just waiting for more to happen and it never did. But I did love the writing, and I’m definitely looking forward to more from Jessie Burton

  11. There’s nothing worse than a mystery that does not live up to the build up, so sorry to hear this is the case. I might still check this out regardless because I am a sucker for beautiful writing and beautiful covers. I am also really looking forward to her next book, The Muse, as it looks gorgeous as well. I am shallow XD

    1. It is a beautiful book. I would definitely recommend it, atleast the first half- the writing is very picturesque. However at the end she cramped up a lot of issues and it wasn’t the big climax that one would be expecting on reading the first half. If you can borrow a copy, do it. It is worth the read.

      I agree, The Muse is so pretty.

  12. I’ve been on the fence about reading this one, I’ve seen it in my bookstore, but I remembered seeing mixed reviews. It’s true that the blurb is so intriguing and I love that it is set in Amsterdam, because I love the Netherlands and most books are set in the US, let’s be real. It’s disappointing that it felt flat, in the end, because it seems like you loved it. I might pick this one up! 🙂

    1. I hope you will enjoy the read. It is a nice one. Except for the ending everything is nice about the book. It doesnt talk much about Netherlands but still is a welcome change

  13. I’ve been eyeing this one up and almost bought it the other day. After reading your review, I’m happy I didn’t buy it. If I’m still interested in reading it, I’ll pick it up from the library instead.

  14. I’ve only heard good things about this one and it’s high on my reading list, so it’s refreshing to read another point of view. I’ll keep your words in mind when I read it and lower my expectations for the end. I find a lot of Gothic-y books fall short in the climax. I had the same experience reading Marisha Pessl’s Night Film few years ago. It was utterly brilliant right up until the big reveal.

    1. I have not read Night Film but I will add it to my TBR since you really enjoyed it. I agree, sometimes a bad climax can be so disheartening. Like when the whole book is excellent and the climax is damp.

  15. I’ve been tempted a couple of times to pick up this book, but I’m just not sure if it’s for me. I hate when a book ultimate disappoints you when it had so much potential in the beginning. Might check this one out from the library, thanks for the review!

    1. This is a great read, especially the beginning parts. Yes, taking a library copy would be a wise choice. That way you can read the best parts and not feel guilty about buying the book. Burton is a great writer and I am looking forward to reading her new book, The Muse.

  16. It is always so disappointing when the climax doesn’t live up to the build up But the plot sounds wonderful. Will have to see if my library has it.

  17. An interesting idea. But… No book can survive a bad ending. A good story needs, a good idea, a strong opening, and a strong ending. Just like a 30″ ad. I only start to write a story when I feel I have all three requisites in my head.
    Shukriya.
    😉

    1. True. Everything is essential. Burton is a writer with a lot of potential. She has written the first part so well. I wish the second half was longer. Or perhaps the reason was that as a reader you expect some bomb-on-the-head kind of suspense. The climax was a soft reveal which was the problem.

  18. Thanks for your review! I’ve seen this one on Instagram and was interested in reading it. I’ve always loved miniatures (I had a dollhouse as a child). It’s sounds like an intriguing story, but I’ll keep my expectations low.

    1. How lovely!! About the doll house. I have always wanted one. But didnt have one. You will be able to relate to the book It is worth a read, excellent writing in the first half

  19. Really good review, i like your explanation of the rating. I was thinking about reading this because it got quite a bit of attention a while back. Not sure I will if only the first half is good!

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