The Miniaturist

In My Book Club Books on January 5, 2015 at 2:38 am

Unknown by Jessie Burton

Publisher’s Synopsis (Courtesy of Goodreads):

Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam-a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion-a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.

“There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed…”

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.

My Thoughts:

There is much to like in “The Miniaturist”. The writing was exquisite, and the plot was compelling. Life in the dollhouse mirrors life in the townhouse, and the townhouse, in turn, mirrors life in Amsterdam and the greater world. This book drew me in slowly, but once I got hooked, I could not put it down. The historical detail was interesting, but the supernatural intrigue and one plot twist after another kept my attention. There were many “I didn’t see that coming” moments for me in this book.

Book Club Discussion:

We started our discussion with comments about the picture of an actual miniature cabinet that appears at the beginning of the story. Our overall take on the book is that it is a well researched piece of historical fiction with fascinating magical details that helped pull the reader into the story. We recognized and  appreciated the vivid descriptions of the city, the landscape, the canals, and general life at that time. As we discussed the practices, customs, and expectations from that era to our current one, Carol posed the question how is it that we still have challenges with some of the ways of thinking. An unanswerable question, of course, but quite thought provoking. We further discussed the themes of human frailty and redemption and how that was evident in each of the main characters. We concluded our discussion with the still life pictures of the time, how they factored into the story, and whether or not we thought they made political statements related to money and class and the history of the times. All in all, we had a deep conversation about the book and agreed that we all enjoyed reading it.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars


Book Club Menu
Featuring Dutch Specialties

Red Light Cocktail

Gouda Cheese, Nuts, and Dried Fruit
Shredded Brussels Sprouts Slaw
Pork Tenderloin with Brandy Soaked Raisins
Cinnamon Glazed Carrots

Fluffy Mashed Potatoes
Dutch Chocolate Chocolate Mousse



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