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The Miniaturist
Cover of The Miniaturist
The Miniaturist
A Novel
Borrow Borrow Borrow

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.

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.

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About the Author-
  • Jessie Burton was born in London in 1982. She studied at Oxford University and the Central School of Speech and Drama. The Miniaturist is her first novel.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 23, 2014
    Late 17th-century Amsterdam is the sumptuous backdrop for this debut novel about a young Dutch girl from the village of Assendelft, Nella Oortman, who is chosen to be the bride of Johannes Brandt, a wealthy merchant with a shocking secret. Not long after Nella’s arrival in the city, her enigmatic husband presents her with a beautifully wrought cabinet, an exact replica of the house in which they live with Brandt’s sister, Marin, and their loyal servants. Nella engages a miniaturist to fill it and begins to encounter mysteries no one is willing to explain, secrets in which everyone in the household is implicated. The elusive miniaturist, too, seems to know more than Nella, as reflected in the tiny dolls and furniture he creates for the cabinet. The artisan may even be able to predict the future: he sends Nella portentous objects she has not commissioned, such as a cradle and a perfect replica of Brandt’s beloved dog stained with blood. As in all good historical novels, the setting is a major character; in this case the city of Amsterdam, with its waterways and warehouses, confectioners’ shops, and kitchens, teems with period detail. Myriad plot twists involve Brandt’s commercial activities, especially the stores of precious sugar cones from Surinam, and the tragic, fatal consequences of illicit love affairs. Strangely enough, however, the central mystery, the miniaturist’s uncanny knowledge of the future, is never solved, and the reader is left unsatisfied.

  • Library Journal

    June 15, 2014

    This debut novel from Oxford-educated actress Burton transports the reader to Amsterdam in the winter of 1686, where the Dutch merchant class is obsessed with money and influenced by a repressive church. Eighteen-year-old Petronella arrives at her new home on the Herengracht canal to take on her role as wife to a wealthy merchant, Johannes Brandt. To help her adjust to an existence with a largely absent husband and an unfriendly household, Johannes gives Nella a cabinet house, a small replica of her residence. Nella finds a miniaturist to produce pieces for this toy, but the cryptic notes that come with his deliveries cause her to feel increasingly uneasy. As the Brandts' place in the community is threatened, Nella tries to understand the societal nuances and help her family. VERDICT Barton's writing is expressive and descriptive. While her prose is rich, it does not overwhelm the story, which takes a number of sharp turns as the truths about the Brandt family are revealed. 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.--Terry Lucas, Rogers Memorial Lib., Southampton, NY

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Entertainment Weekly "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-"
  • —S.J. Watson, author of Before I Go To Sleep "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."
  • Hannah Kent, author of Burial Rites '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."
  • —Library Journal "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."
  • Good Housekeeping "[A] haunting debut."
  • New York Daily News "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 magazine/Vulture.com "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."
  • Cleveland Plain Dealer "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."
  • —The Guardian "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..."
  • —New York magazine "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."
  • Washington Independent Review of Books "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."
  • Dallas Morning News "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."
  • Tampa Bay Times "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."
  • Shelf Awareness "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."
  • The Gilmore Guide To Books "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."
  • My Friends are Fiction "A suspenseful and moving read."
  • Entertainment Weekly (Must List) "Seventeenth-century Amsterdam comes alive in this meticulously researched, enchantingly told tale."
  • Washington Post "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."
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune "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
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