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Summary

Set in 17th-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, 18-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.

©2014 Peebo & Pilgrim Ltd (P)2014 HarperCollinsPublishers

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Cariola
  • 02-11-14

Too Many Holes

Burton gives us a novel set in 17th century Amsterdam, a booming mercantile center. Young Nella has arrived from the country, newly married, only to find that her husband Johannes is away on business and that her harsh sister-in-law, Marin, rules the roost. When he returns, he presents her with a wedding gift that he believes will keep her busy: a cabinet designed like their house, but empty. It's Nella's task to fill it, and she contacts by mail a miniaturist to create the first pieces. When the package arrives, there are additional, unordered pieces that are astonishingly identical to reality. How does the miniaturist know so much about the Brandt home? Even more strangely, some of the figures representing the family start to change . . . and Nella begins to feel that she is living in a house of secrets.

This novel was really slow-going at first, so slow that I almost gave up on it. While I'm glad that I stuck with it to the end, there were a number of problems. First, we never really learn exactly who the miniaturist is or how she knows so much. At times, Nella seems almost too naive, and she and other characters change far too abruptly to be believable. The ending--well, lets just say that we're somewhat left hanging. While it feels like a conclusion, again, there are just too many holes

28 of 30 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Lulew
  • 10-12-15

Fell Short

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Not sure who would enjoy this. It was scattered and clumsy.

What do you think your next listen will be?

Don't know

What didn’t you like about Davina Porter’s performance?

She lost track of who was who.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment. Lack everything and tried too hard to encompass so much, but fell very short on all accounts.

Any additional comments?

I tried to be hopeful that the book would get better. Other reviewers said it was slow at the start. There was just nothing good about this book. Poor plot, shallow characters and just felt like the author tried to put every thought in.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • J. Burnett
  • 17-01-15

Good but missing something...

This book kept my attention, but is not one I would re-read. It is hard to imagine the attachments the main character feels toward her "husband" and his sister especially in such a short time- 4 months. There was nothing alluring about Johannes and I think especially given the time period she had more reason to feel used and cheated than to feel any admiration. The reasons given or suggested feel very flimsy. I liked the character of Nella and the two servants though. They were well developed. Not sure the minitureist actually made any impact in the story whatsoever, it was kind of odd side plot that didn't really fit the story or work for me at all.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Beth Anne
  • 09-12-14

Magical Historical Story of Secrets and Misery

Really well written book. It made me sad to read, but kept me fascinated with the magic and history and characters. It's a book about secrets and more secrets. And as each of the secrets came to be revealed more and more trouble fell upon the characters. I truly didn't want the story to end...I could have followed these characters infinitely.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Augusta
  • 25-05-15

Unique and Intriguing

One suspects quickly that the hastily arranged marriage between the rural 18 year old Nella Oortman and merchant trader Johannes Brandt will not be a happy one. Why has Johannes married her, brought her to Amsterdam and then with some emotional cruelty deserts her, not only in travel, but in daily interactions.

Johannes does give Nella a beautiful cabinet, an adult size doll house which is a kind of a miniature of their home ostensibly intended to be used by a young woman to learn how to run a home. “The accuracy of the cabinet is eerie, as if the real house has been shrunk, its body sliced in two and its organs revealed.”

As secrets are revealed, Nellie continues to love, and grows in her devotion to her husband, despite their incompatibility. They slowly forge a friendship if not a marriage.

As Johannes travels and works to keep the family affluent and in good social standing, his sister Marin is Nella's only companion and is at turns cold, puzzling and aloof.

Meanwhile, Nellie tries to commission miniature pieces for the cabinet Johannes had given her, but she is never able to meet the miniaturist and the pieces that arrive sporadically but seem to indicate that the artist knows what is going on inside the house. They give a sense of foreboding. Are they clues of well-being or menacing harbingers.

The character of Nellie is inconstant - oscillating from naive and silly to wise with strong feminist insights.

There are unforeseen twists and turns and stunning revelations that move the story along in a compelling way and as the concealed becomes open to Marin, her choices will determine the outcome for them all.

Despite some unevenness in Nellie's character, this book is spellbinding read.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Susan Heinzman
  • 28-01-15

Meh

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

I had to force myself to finish this book. The characters weren't developed enough to make the story believable. Davina Porter's narration was great as always.

What do you think your next listen will be?

Station's Eleven

Which scene was your favorite?

None

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

If it had a good screenwriter.

Any additional comments?

Over-hyped

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Pita
  • 01-09-14

Intriguing tale set in 17th Century Netherlands

Would you listen to The Miniaturist again? Why?

I found this book entertaining but flawed. This is the story of a bride who enters a family she barely knows, how she comes to be a true part of that family and carries it forward regardless of the very inauspicious beginnings of her relationship with the other members of the family. I enjoyed listening to this book but once is enough.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Miniaturist?

Without giving anything away, there is a particular scene in the book where the reason for the issues Lena is experiencing with her husband become suddenly revealed to her. It is hard for this particular scene not to be memorable.

What does Davina Porter bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Davina Porter's narration certainly added depth to the characters. The female characters in this book were well developed and congruent; the male characters remained shallow; they also benefited from Porter's reading.

Any additional comments?

The relationship between Johannes and Lena is the backbone of this book and what gives it meaning. It is unfortunate that the supposed depth of the feelings and commitment they develop toward each other is not substantiated by their interactions and conversation in the novel. I enjoy period pieces and, as such, I enjoyed this book (although the degree of detail for us to develop a real notion of what life was like in 17th Century Netherlands is really not there...we just get to see a postcard). All in all, this book had a lot of promise...we are kept guessing through it...but most of the promise remains unfulfilled.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Pamela
  • 31-07-16

Unrealistic, and the ending is depressing.

Would you try another book from Jessie Burton and/or Davina Porter?

Maybe, the writing was good and I do like Davina Porter however, in many books, like this one, her voice is way too child like. In this book the premise of the miniaturist is too far fetched, as is much of the rest of the story line. And in the end it was just depressing.

What do you think your next listen will be?

Not sure.

What three words best describe Davina Porter’s voice?

Great reader, but too feminine/child like in many cases.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • D. Hile
  • 01-09-14

Intriguing and a bit disturbing

The book is well narrated though there were times I had trouble keeping the dialogue straight based on the voices.

As for the story it is very good. The character development at the beginning was a bit slow but needed. The story is well illustrated in words and sufficiently detailed to depict the period. The content is at times distressing and a discussion on moral debate, love (marriage, family, friendship), prejudges, greed, ambition, and personal growth. (The human condition)

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Michele Kellett
  • 05-04-18

Intrigue and Disappointment

Ms. Burton is a skillful descriptor, has done a great deal of research into 17th c. Amsterdam, and definitely keeps one reading, through the careful deployment of red herrings, minor cliff-hangers and juicy revelations. However, all these stratagems lead to a big nothing-burger.

The story itself is intriguing, featuring a human mystery (what the heck is going on in this household?) and a sort of magic-realism mystery (who is The Miniaturist? and does she see the future or create it?) Unfortunately for the plot, and the reader, the miniaturist, the titular character, turns out to be utterly irrelevant to the story, a mere decorative fancy. And the human mystery is no mystery at all to the minimally attentive reader -- we spot EVERY SINGLE revelation hours before our heroine does. The lead male, Johannes, is supposed to be noble, irresistible, tragic and charismatic, but I defy anyone to read his last speech without laughing.

The book lingers over descriptions of weather, and feelings, and clothes, and such, but neglects to furnish credible emotion or motivation to its characters.

I regret that I did not read the physical version of this book, so that I could have thrown it against the wall when I finished it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful