The Miniaturist

by Jessie Burton

I was really disappointed with this novel. Aware of it on the bestseller lists for some time, but with no burning desire to read it just yet, I got myself a copy when it was selected by our book group.

The setting – Amsterdam in the late seventeenth century – is convincing, and portrays a powerful image of how a rich merchant’s household might have been managed. The characters are real people, though I felt that they were insufficiently developed. 

Johannes and Nella’s relationship develops throughout the book, and despite the unusual circumstances of their marriage, they develop a strong love and respect for each other. Other ‘good’ characters demonstrate loyalty, tact, discretion. And then here are the ‘baddies’. The reasons given for their were not convincing to me. The most interesting character is probably Marin, but we don’t get to know her well.

The miniaturist of the title is elusive – this is part of the story – but also, to me, quite unnecessary to the plot.
And it is the plot that was the biggest disappointment. The author provides an atmosphere: petty-mindedness, religious bigotry, small-town gossip characterise the town of Amsterdam. And it could be said that the town is the novel’s main character.  The story was, to me, of secondary concern to its author, and I found it hard to keep my attention focussed on this novel enough to finish reading it.