What’s it all about?:
On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office-leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.
But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist-an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .
Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand-and fear-the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?
Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.
What did WE think?:
CHRISSI: Did this book draw you in from the start, or did you take a while to get into it?
BETH: From the first page, I could tell that this was going to be a good book, the writing is absolutely beautiful, but it did take a while before I was fully immersed in the story. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it from the start, but that it was a bit of a “grower,” before I really appreciated what the author was trying to do.
BETH: Describe the relationship between Johannes and Nella and how it develops through the novel.
CHRISSI: I was very intrigued by the relationship between Johannes and Nella. Nella obviously struggles with the lack of attention Johannes pays her at the start. She expected to have an attentive husband and that is not what she got! I don’t think Nella ever anticipates the twist (won’t spoil) to the relationship. Their relationship becomes incredibly dramatic as time goes on and secrets are revealed. I thought Nella came across as incredibly mature, despite her young age.
CHRISSI: Nella starts this novel young and new in unfamiliar surroundings. How does her character grow and develop throughout the novel?
BETH: Nella is only eighteen when she comes to live with her new husband in Amsterdam and hasn’t really had much life experience so is quite naive and gullible when it comes to certain things. She learns pretty early on through her relationship with Johannes and his sister Marin that if she wants to survive she must develop a thicker skin. Several incidents in the novel certainly give her the chance to do that!
BETH: Did you like the character of Johannes? Was he believable?
CHRISSI: To be honest, I didn’t really have a strong opinion of Johannes. He irritated me at times and I never really come to like him despite the fact that he had a horrible turn of fate! I didn’t find him overly believable as a character, but that could be down to my lack of connection with him.
CHRISSI: The replica house that Johannes gives to Nella is the key that the plot revolves around. What do you feel that the cabinet symbolises?
BETH: The miniature house that Johannes gives to Nella as a wedding gift represents their own home and Johannes encourages Nella to decorate it with bits and bobs as she sees fit. At first, Nella is outraged, seeing it as little more than a play-thing for a child and sends off for pieces that may be seen as a bit controversial, like a miniature lute that Marin has banned her from playing. When the miniaturist who makes these pieces starts sending her other things, especially things she hasn’t requested things start becoming a bit eerie as it is if the maker has predicted the future for the occupants of the house. I think for me the cabinet symbolises the fact that you cannot make a completely accurate likeness of anything – people, life and chance are always going to surprise you.
BETH: What did you think of the relationship between Marin and Nella?
CHRISSI: I think it was incredibly intriguing. I wasn’t sure how it was going to develop. Marin is so mysterious but so cold towards Nella at the beginning and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen or what secrets Marin was hiding. I enjoyed reading about their relationship even if it was a difficult, complex relationship.
CHRISSI: Was there a character that intrigued you? Why?
BETH: There were some great characters in this novel and quite a few that intrigued me but I’ll pick Marin. Marin is Johannes sister who has never married and before Johannes married Nella she was mistress of the household. Therefore it probably wasn’t easy for her to give way to a new mistress especially one a fair bit younger than she was. I started the novel determined to hate her for the cold way that she treated Nella but in the end she surprised me and reminded me that people are not always what they seem.
BETH: Would you read another book by this author?
CHRISSI: I want to say a tentative yes. I thought the writing was good, but I wasn’t blown away by the story. I think I was expecting more about The Miniaturist and I found it to be rather lacking in that area!
Would WE recommend it?:
BETH: But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):