There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed…
On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives at a grand house in Amsterdam to begin her new life as the wife of wealthy merchant Johannes Brandt. Though curiously distant, he presents 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 ring eerily true.
As Nella uncovers the secrets of her new household she realises the escalating dangers they face. The miniaturist seems to hold their fate in her hands – but does she plan to save or destroy them?
Nella was married to a rich man, Johannes Brandt. She is hopeful for love but disappointed as he doesn’t show her any – physically or emotionally, and this makes her sad, powerless and lonely. The man she marries is twice her age, but it was normal in the 1600s. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office—leaving Nella alone. Nella is left alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin. Her new husband’s sister is cruel all the time, and very tense. Her new family is not very welcoming. Marin doesn’t trust many people, especially Nella. Although the two servants (Cordelia and Otto) are almost treated as part of the family. Nella has no-one she can talk to, and is angered by her husband’s wedding gift – a mini replica of the house, which she interprets as a dig into her powerlessness in her new home. All she has to do now is fill it with dolls. So she sets off to look for a person who can create mini replicas of people and furniture and finds an advert for The Miniaturist.
But it’s a difficult life. The three main women, Nella, Marin (Brandt’s sister) and Cordelia (the maidservant) are wholly dependent on Brandt for their survival – they must live in his shadow and as secrets become unveiled this becomes more difficult. They all depend on Brandt for safety, money and shelter. But friends become enemies and power hierarchies are broken down as Brandt struggles to sell his stock of sugar to customers, the lives of the occupants in the house become endangered. Brandt travels overseas to make deals with other merchants and buyers. Or, is he running away from something? 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.
What she receives from the miniaturist is exquisite and uncanny – exact, to the tiniest detail – suggesting the miniaturist has been spying on her and her new family and the house and knows all of its secrets. But what’s more strange is that she receives extra bits and pieces, which she hasn’t requested to be made. Secrets become unveiled and Nella realises the miniaturist was right all along, but how did the miniaturist know everything? 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. 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?
The take on family life in Amsterdam in the 1600s is amazing. In this very closed and secretive society, everyone is spying on each other, rumours are spread, and outsiders not trusted. This is a city ruled by wealth and oppressive/ strict religion so anyone who is different will be penalised and punished and sent away. It’s harsh but no one dares question authority. The rules are put in place for a reason and everyone must obey them to the word.
I would describe this book as mysterious. I was shocked a few times by this book, Jessie builds anticipation perfectly. I just love all the secrets they keep in that house, and from each other, and when you find out a secret it’s like WOAH where did that come from? It’s quite possibly my favourite book. The whole book is tense and suspenseful throughout. When the miniaturist commissions extra pieces for no extra cost to Nella, you begin to wonder what secrets Marin and Johannes are trying so hard to keep. The Miniaturist acts as an omniscient power in the book and it’s eerie that she knows much, and she possibly tries hard to reveal their unexpected secrets. She tiptoes around Amsterdam, uncovering everyone’s home lives like an invisible, undercover journalist, like she purposefully wants to ruin their lives. She acts as the law impersonated. It’s enchanting.
So I’d give the book a 5/5 overall.