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The Miniaturist

by Jessie Burton

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Having read all of the hype for this book, I saved it to take away on holiday where I read it in two days. I enjoyed it, but it will not be in the short list for my top three books of the year.

The story is set in 17th Amsterdam and is about Nella (Petronella), a young girl who becomes the wife of Johannes Brandt, a merchant. Married life is not what Nella was expecting. Her husband avoids physical contact and her sister-in-law runs the house. Nella finds herself with nothing to do – a problem soon remedied by her husband who presents her with a doll’s house – an exact copy of the house that she has married into. Although insulted because she wants to run a real house and not a toy one, Nella begins to purchase miniatures with which to fill her house. But – the miniaturist does not always send models that Nella has requested, the miniaturist  sends models of his own choosing – models which seem to predict the future.

Details of 17th century Amsterdam are interesting, but I felt that the characters were not developed in sufficient detail to elicit empathy. There are also questions that beg to be answered. For instance – Johannes is a merchant, so why will he not sell the sugar? His reticence is not explained and in the end we lose interest. The miniaturist, the namesake of the book, apart from sending the models appears to play no part. The miniaturist’s role is not explained; why was Nella chosen for the ‘extra’ models? What was the purpose of predicting events? In fact, so little detail was given about the miniaturist, that the character lost significance – apart from being named in the title; it became almost superfluous.

However, despite all of this, it was a nice relaxing holiday read, even if by the end of the story, i wasn’t really bothered about the fates of the characters.