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The Miniaturist    by Jessie Burton order for
by Jessie Burton
Order:  USA  Can
Ecco, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

A beautiful cabinet house is delivered to Nella, a newlywed eighteen-year-old, who has just herself arrived in Amsterdam in 1686 from a village far away. It is a gift from her often-absent husband, to distract her from the difficulties of her new life: her sharp-tongued sister-in-law, an unusually outspoken maid and the darkly mysterious assistant of her husband.

Nella is surprised by another delivery: miniature figures and furniture that exactly mimic what is in her own house. The miniaturist who has created these seems to know more than Nella about her life. Certain it is that there are secrets in the house, and as Nella uncovers them one by one, it becomes very clear that her new family is in danger.

Author Jessie Burton has done a beautiful job of letting us know what life was like in that time. We breathe the sometimes stinky sea air, flounder in the winter ice and freeze in an unheated home. Even more, she brings us into a family of free-thinking individuals who live in this repressive society where God and gold are all that matter, appearances count for everything, and the only constant in people's interactions with one another seems to be hypocrisy.

With the family we live through the consequences of being different. And Burton has piled on the differences. Yet it all seems to make sense even if everything is a bit murky. The only exception is the story's connection to the miniaturist. The explanation comes late and is very brief - too brief to make it believably integrate to the main story. Nevertheless, this is a very interesting read.

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