The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton – a review

miniaturistThis is one of those books that I kept seeing everywhere. It has seemingly been on display in every bookshop window I’ve been past recently tempting me with the lovely looking cover. I was therefore strangely drawn to this book despite not being my usual crime fiction. After picking it up and putting it down many times I decided to take the plunge but rather than buy the physical printed version I downloaded it as an Audible book to hopefully keep me entertained during my walk to work.
Set in 17th Century Amsterdam, the story centres around 18 year old Nella. She travels from her home in the country to the city where she marries merchant Johannes. Nella then moves in with him and his sister Marin, as well as maid Cornelia and servant Otto. Shortly after their wedding Johannes presents Nella with a dolls house sized perfect replica of their own home. Nella then contacts the Miniaturist to help her furnish it. She writes requesting some items, but soon things start appearing that seem to suggest the miniaturist knows a lot more about the secrets within the house than people outside should know.
I’m in two minds about this book. I realise that listening to a book is not the same as reading it, and I find that a book has to be even more engaging to be able to listen to it properly. This book did keep me interested so on that side it did the job. I really enjoyed parts of the writing, especially the descriptions of the city and its workings. The interaction between characters gave a good insight into how I imagine daily life would have been during this time where money was the most important thing around.
However despite all the hype, and the cover that I’d found so intriguing, overall I don’t think this was a great book. The Miniaturist element almost seemed to be redundant and from my listening it wasn’t really necessary. I had assumed there would be some kind of supernatural element to the story but unless I misheard there didn’t seem to be and nothing was really explained. I’m not sure of the timescale the book was set over, but everything felt to be a bit too quick. The change in characters actions and the interaction between the main players was all a little too forced to be real and so I didn’t end up particularly caring about their fates, and the constant talk of sugar was a bit dull.
The ending seemed quite abrupt and it felt like nothing was really finished. There were lots of storylines but I struggled to see what the books main story was meant to be. Saying that, it could be because the crime element was very small so it wasn’t my usual type of book plus it is easy to get distracted and miss things when listening rather than reading.
Overall I think this book was just a little bit disappointing, mainly down to the lack of Miniaturist interaction. I had picked it up so many times in bookshops, and had read so many good things about it that I had expected it to be great, whereas it was just ok. It just goes to show you can’t always judge a book by its cover.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton – a review

  1. Liz

    I felt the same way, at first I thought it reminded me of a cross between Rebecca and Jane Eyre, then it all got a bit spooky in the middle and I raced on to find out what happened… then ended up disappointed by the weird unexplained ending. If you missed something, so did I! 🙂

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