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The Miniaturist: A Novel Hardcover – August 26, 2014

3.7 out of 5 stars 808 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

The Miniaturist is one of the year’s most hyped novels, and it’s easy to see why. Burton conjures every scent and crackle of Nella’s world. A-” (Entertainment Weekly)

“The Miniaturist is that rarest of things - beautifully written, yet also a compelling page-turner. It’s haunting, magical, and full of surprises, the kind of book that reminds you why you fell in love with reading.” (—S.J. Watson, author of Before I Go To Sleep)

‘Utterly transporting...one of those rare debut novels that excels in every regard. The past is brought to life in potent, sensory detail: one feels steeped in it. Burton’s prose beguiles the reader...My first instinct on finishing this book was to immediately read it again.” (Hannah Kent, author of Burial Rites)

“Burton’s writing is expressive and descriptive. While her prose is rich, it does not overwhelm the story...This historical novel with its strong female characters will appeal to those who enjoy the haunting undercurrents of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind.” (—Library Journal)

“[A] haunting debut.” (Good Housekeeping)

“Jessie Burton nimbly transports contemporary social issues to the 17th century where a costume drama rich in historical detail is embellished with supernatural intrigue…The Miniaturist is a late-harvest summer delight.” (New York Daily News)

“As in Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, the pleasure lies in giving in to well-wrought illusions, and the result is a beach read with meat on its bones - perfect for the Labor Day transition from play to work.” (New York magazine/Vulture.com)

“Rich in 17th century atmosphere…Debut novelist Jessie Burton has a terrific subject... All those severe portraits of people in dark clothes and starched white ruffs, along with those glossy, death-scented still lifes, spring to life.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

“A standout portrayal of the wide range of women’s ingenuity.” (Booklist)

“A fabulously gripping read that will appeal to fans of Girl With a Pearl Earring and The Goldfinch, but Burton is a genuinely new voice with her visceral take on sex, race and class...” (—The Guardian)

“This debut novel, set in 17th-century Amsterdam, hits all the marks of crossover success: taut suspense, a pluck heroine- and a possibly clairvoyant miniature-furniture designer.” (—New York magazine)

“The Miniaturist is a masterpiece of atmosphere and tension …. The themes Burton explores are as relevant today as they were long ago …. a thoroughly engaging, beautifully written work of historical fiction.” (Washington Independent Review of Books)

“In The Miniaturist, Burton uses a historical object - the real Petronella Oortman’s cabinet house in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum - as the springboard for a fantastically spun tale of love and mystery. It’s a story that astutely reflects our own age’s obsessions and prejudices, and it’s one not to be missed.” (Dallas Morning News)

The Miniaturist excels in depicting Amsterdam and its wealthy upper class, and lovers of art and of Amsterdam will be drawn to Burton’s imaginative story, which flows as effortlessly as water down a canal.” (BookPage)

The Miniaturist is an impressive debut… Burton has created a world that, like the cabinet house, draws us in until we feel the dread and mystery and wonder that surround Nella.” (Tampa Bay Times)

“In Jessie Burton’s atmospheric debut, The Miniaturist, the powers of love and obsession, sins and secrets, loyalty and forgiveness bind together a cast of sympathetic characters who all have a part to play in a collectively chilling conclusion.” (Shelf Awareness)

“A magical, intricate marvel of perfection… with luxurious prose that immerses the reader in the cold, damp of Amsterdam… A book that enchants from beginning to end.” (The Gilmore Guide To Books)

“A suspenseful and moving read.” (My Friends are Fiction)

“Seventeenth-century Amsterdam comes alive in this meticulously researched, enchantingly told tale.” (Entertainment Weekly (Must List))

“Burton gives her narrative the propulsive drive of a thriller, but her distinctive prose conveys deeper, harder answers than a whodunit. This fine historical novel mirrors the fullness of life, in which growth and sorrow inevitably are mingled.” (Washington Post)

“Jessie Burton’s debut novel…has all of the trappings of a historical page-turner: a rich setting in 17th-century Amsterdam, a plot inspired by an antique “cabinet house” located at the renowned Rijksmuseum, and a diverse cast of characters…a perfect amount of authentic detail and a plot that speeds along.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“Teen bride Nelly strives to connect with her aloof husband and his spinster sister, but uncovers secrets that, in intolerant 1686 Amsterdam, could mean death. It’s a tense tale.” (Us Weekly)

“A seductive meditation on greed, power and the tortuous journey even the well-heeled must endure for self-possession. Burton adroitly depicts a culture of contradiction: a love of affluence and indulgence chafing against the impulse for Godfearing abstinence.” (New York Times Book Review, The Shortlist)

From the Back Cover

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 life 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's gift helps Nella 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, beautifully written, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; First Edition edition (August 26, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062306812
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062306814
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (808 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By JGrace VINE VOICE on June 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Amsterdam, in the late 17th century, is a city of hidden opulence and religious repression. Eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman enters a prosperous, but sham marriage, with the merchant Johannes Brandt. When her husband presents her with a replica cabinet house, she finds that the mystery and deceit that surrounds her is duplicated in the miniatures she acquires to furnish the house. If this book had been a simple romantic coming of age story, I would have no quarrel with it. This is an interesting historical setting and I cared about eventual outcome for these characters. The quality of the writing holds up well enough for a summer beach read, but given the heavy thematic content of the plot, I was looking more.

It's likely that my expectations were too high. The historical setting brings Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring to mind. The level of deceit and secrecy in the household made me think of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I looked for that level of excellence in the prose, and I didn't find it. The title of the book lead me to believe that the miniaturist would be an active character. In fact, she becomes a rather awkward plot device that doesn't quite achieve the level of magical realism. This book is full of complex themes, probably too many of them. The author's treatment of the religious and sexual repression of the Brant siblings felt a bit too 21st century.

The book did hold my attention. I cared about these characters and their spiraling tragedy. It's just a shame that the writing didn't quite support the depth of their story.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was looking forward to reading this book with a great deal of anticipation. I was ready to be transported to seventeenth-century Amsterdam and immersed in the lives of a family filled with secrets. I was, but when all is said and done, I couldn't quite suspend my disbelief enough to thoroughly enjoy the book.

As should be, the main character, Nella, held most of my attention, and her clumsy attempts to fit in this very strange household and to entice her husband into her bed elicited my sympathy. Each character-- from Nella to Marin the hateful sister-in-law to the distant husband Johannes to the servants, Otto and Cornelia-- have secrets and unexpected depths that add a great deal to the story, although I found none of them particularly likeable.

However, two things kept throwing me out of the story: historical accuracy and the character of the miniaturist. Let me stress one thing before I go any further. I am not a stickler for historical accuracy in fiction. If the story has its grip on me, I can ignore a few things here and there because I know I'm reading fiction. In The Miniaturist, the author has obviously done a lot of research on physical setting and objects. I can see the streets, I can picture Nella's house, and I can see the cabinet filled with tiny works of art. Unfortunately, the time frame of the story always seems a little "off"-- and not just because the characters slip into a twenty-first century way of speaking and writing from time to time.

In the book, Amsterdam is in the clutches of a strict and repressive church. Church leaders ban the baking of gingerbread in the form of humans because it smacks of Catholic idolatry.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This ambitious first novel tells the story of 18-year-old Nella, a young woman of good family whose reduced financial circumstances force her to marry a wealthy merchant, Johannes Brandt, whom she barely knows.
The prologue scene takes place at a funeral, described with phrases like: “With the church floor sealed again, the circle dissolves, the dead at bay. The girl, like a stained-glass saint fallen from the church’s window, acknowledges the uninvited hypocrites.” As the main book opens, Nella observes the homes in her new neighborhood for the first time: “Admiring their own symmetry on the water, they are stately and beautiful, jewels set within the city’s pride. Above their rooftops nature is doing her best to keep up, and the clouds in colors of saffron and apricot echo the glorious republic.” If you like these excerpts, then you will probably love the writing in The Miniaturist, which was presumably intended to evoke an earlier time but came across to me as overdone and stilted. What is natural in 19th-century novels seems affected in the 21st century.
Nella is drawn as almost unbelievably innocent and naïve, arriving at her new marital home with her beloved parakeet and little else. Nevertheless, she is the most credible of the characters, as most of them are caricatures, many cloaked in an aura of mystery that gets more and more annoying, especially Marin, Nella’s new sister-in-law, who seems straight out of a bad dream by one of the Brontes.
The plot had intriguing elements, but many of the mysteries were not really resolved, including the real nature of the title character, the miniaturist.
This book’s rights have been sold in 30 countries, so clearly someone liked it; regrettably, I was not among them
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