I received this book as an Advance Reading Copy from Waterstones in exchange for a review. It is Jessie Burton’s debut novel and as there have been no newspaper or other critic reviews yet, I came to it as a blank slate other than the blurb on the back/ inside covers which sounded promising; historical fiction, a bit of mystery, tipped to be one of the biggest books of the year…
Nella Oortman’s father dies leaving the family with debts so her marriage to a wealthy Amsterdam merchant is arranged. On arriving at his house, she comes to know her new cold, pious sister-in-law Marin who does not seem to welcome her, Cornelia the lively made, Otto her husband’s exotic (black) manservant and, eventually, her husband Johannes himself. But the house is a house of secrets out of which Nella feels shut and in which she struggles to find her place. However, when her husband gives her a gift of a beautiful cabinet, laid out inside exactly like the house and she is expected to fill it with miniature items, things begin to change.
The Miniaturist is intriguing and suspenseful. There are lots of plot twists and turns, some unexpected, some more predictable. It has a clear, straightforward writing style, interesting and sympathetic main characters and a good ‘supporting cast’. It ponders themes of the true meaning of liberty, women’s place in society and their potential, the corrosive effects of secrets and of suppressing your true identity. A really good read.