Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Publisher: Picador
Release date: 03 July 2014
Rating: ****
Back cover blurb: There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Only later does Johannes appear and present her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways. Nella is at first mystified by the closed world of the Brandt household, but as she uncovers its secrets she realizes the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall? 
The Miniaturist is an intriguing debut novel. Set in Amsterdam's wealthiest quarter during the 1680's, the Miniaturist follows Petronella (Nella) Oortman from her arrival at her new marital home, to the trial of her husband for a crime that I cannot mention in fear of giving away some of the plot.

Nella is expecting a loving welcome when she arrives at her new husband's house in 1686, instead she is met by his standoffish sister, the giggling maid, Cornelia and Otto, the first dark skinned man that Nella has seen. Her husband Johannes is away on business and nobody seems to know when he might return.

Their marriage has been arranged after the untimely death of Nella's Father and her Mother's discovery of the family's debt. Nella after meeting Johannes Brandt, is certain that her marriage is for love and not convenience, but the absence of her husband on her arrival and the attitude of his sister cast doubt upon her beliefs.
The arrival of Johannes himself does little to ease these doubts, Nella's new husband is a workaholic who shows her next to nothing in the way of affection until he arrives home one day with a present for her. Some may argue that it has been bought as a distraction, so that Nella cannot 'bother' her husband, but I will let you make up your own mind about that as the story continues.
The gift itself; A cabinet house, an intricate model house that replicates their own. At first Nella is opposed to the gift, thinking of it as a child's toy, but gradually she warms to the idea of furnishing it, and gets in touch with a local miniaturist who will make custom made pieces for the cabinet.
When they arrive Nella is astounded not only by the accuracy and quality of the pieces that she has asked for, but also at the addition of extra items that she did not ask for. Items that accurately represent parts of Nella's new home and life, that an insider should know nothing about.
The miniaturist continues to send these pieces despite Nella's protests, and as they continue to arrive, more and more of the families secrets begin to be revealed and the Brandt's once private lives begin to unravel in the most public of ways.

The Miniaturist is available to buy from Amazon online and all good book shops.
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Thank you to the publishers who approved my request on netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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