Review: The Miniaturist


WHY I CHOSE IT: I recently attended a #Bookstagram meetup organized by the brilliant @whatsallyreadnext. There was a blind bookswap and I was excited to receive a copy of ‘The Miniaturist’. Although I didn’t strictly choose this book, I was eager to read this magical historical novel.

THE PLOT: ‘The Miniaturist’ is set in Amsterdam during the 17th century. The main character, Petronella Brandt, is a young woman who has just moved to the capital city following her marriage to a wealthy merchant. However, Petronella’s marriage is not what it seems, particularly as she also has to live and contend with her unmarried sister-in-law. When Petronella receives a miniature cabinet (e.g. dolls house) as a wedding present, mysterious miniature gifts begin to appear. Benign at first, the gifts start to reflect the inner working and secrets of the household, and Petronella becomes embroiled in what appears to be prophecy and magic reflecting her unhappy marriage.

MY RATING: Although I enjoyed this book, it receives three stars because I felt that it was quite slow and clunky in places. The descriptive nature of the book built up the world, but the plot was slow to unfold in the first half. The story is continually told from Petronella’s point of view but I kept being taken outside of the novel as I never adjusted to the third person narrative. The author demonstrates Petronella’s thoughts and inner monologue, which I felt would have worked better in the first person.

I am a fan of historical fiction and I felt the use of Dutch and comments on society in Amsterdam in the seventeenth century worked well. However, many of the details of society (in which neighbours often reported and spied on each other) were told and not seen, which took away some of the danger and build up. Perhaps it could have worked better if a minor character was subject to the negative aspects of society, therefore demonstrating the level of suspicion surrounding the main household.

Additionally, there was a good level of mystery and suspense, particularly around the character of the miniaturist and the gifts which Petronella receives. But I didn’t feel satisfied with the resolution because the miniaturist and her “magic” remained a mystery. I think the main issue was that the novel is set in the real world, so the “magic” felt incongruous with the historical, factual elements of the setting.

Finally, I guessed a couple of the twists fairly easily, which ruined some of the suspense within the plot. Although, there was one secret within the household that surprised me, it didn’t feel like there was a moment when it all came together.


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