Book Review – The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Hello Readers,

Today, I finished reading the haunting, magical and suspenseful novel, ‘The Miniaturist’, by Jessie Burton (her debut novel). The review below contains my thoughts of the book from a writing perspective. Please be warned, this may contain spoilers! This review was originally posted on Goodreads.com.

In the first chapter we are introduced to Petronella, the book’s main protagonist, who is entering a new house, a new world, to be with her new husband; Johannes. I find this to be an interesting beginning in novel writing; usually, plots in novels will begin with a character living out there daily lives, when suddenly, they are thrown off path for whatever reason. Here the author has placed the trigger in the past, and has planted Nella in the result of the trigger. In the beginning we want and need to know where Nella is, why she is there, and what she will be facing – this creates that essential initial suspense in writing.

On the title header of the chapter, the author states the place and date (seventeenth century) of where the book begins. This helps the reader visualise the period. This method is also good when we don’t want to place the time, date and era in the actual story for whatever reason – it allows the author to focus on description and story of that time period – which also hints at the ‘show’ don’t ‘tell’ rule in the narrative.

We meet some of the other character’s of the Brandt household in the hallway. This is a perfect setting and stage for their interaction. The setting helps to build the claustrophobic and haunting overtones and themes of the story to come – in fact the setting is a character in itself!

The characters are given clear physical descriptions and unique traits from the outset – which are all essential elements in ensuring the reader gets an instant ‘early’ image in their mind of the characters; which will stay with them throughout the book. It is also through physical description, action and dialogue that we begin to understand the relationships and chemistry between the characters – the differences in the character’s personalities helps to build the conflict in the story.

The author had undertaken considersble research of Amsterdam and it’s history in order to write the book. After I finished reading it, I felt I had come away with a good understanding of Amsterdam’s history – and it is always great to learn something new through fiction! I learned about seventeenth century Dutch houses, Churches, laws, trials, religions, food, currency and professions. I loved how the author had initally visited The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam; where she had viewed real-life Petronella Oortman’s miniature house. She had walked away inspired, wondering who would have owned such a beautiful thing. I guess this really does tell us that some of the best inspirations come to us when we question something,Β  and want to know more about it. It’s the ever magical why, what, where and when of fiction – and that wonderful trigger of when research begins.

I can only guess that the author wanted to keep the miniaturist character as mysterious as possible, because this mirrored the author’s mysterious feeling’s towards the miniature cabinet. I felt that the miniaturist character did have her own story to tell far away from this book – I would still love to know what she looked like, how she acquired these foretelling skills, and (in more detail than this book explained) why she chose to impact other’s lives by using these skills. A new book from this character’s viewpoint would also be amazing.

There are some strong themes in the book; love, obsession, jealousy, secrets, lies, superstitions, violence, fear, regret, death, decay, among many other’s – and they all entwine into a fantastic carefully woven plot – which has several twists!

I thought the ending was carefully wrapped up with all of the loose ends tied. Although the very last event was inevitable, I still wondered whether something magical was going to happen to save the day – and that process is ‘suspense working the reader’ at it’s best. The fact that no magic happened in the end made the story very raw and real.

Finally, one thing that really blew me away was when I visited the author’s Pinterest page (a collection of research images that she used as inspiration for the novel). I had clear visions in my mind of the character images, based on the author’s descriptions; but it was only when I visited the author’s Pinterest page that my visions were confirmed to be almost identical! This itself was a magical experience, and can only highlight the author’s excellent eye for detail. I also recommend creating storyboards for your writing’s – they become great inspiration and prompts when needed.

I recommend this book to those who enjoy a haunting, suspense-thriller. This book is a truly amazing read by a brilliant debut writer. I will look forward to Jessie’s next book called ‘Belonging’ – set in Spain and London in the 1960’s.

Until next time,

Donna x

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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46 thoughts on “Book Review – The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

  1. authoraamir says:

    Wonderful review! : )

  2. chrispavesic says:

    Very nice review. I like the idea of using Pinterest to make character boards. Sounds like a very interactive idea for the author and the readers.

  3. I seldom read book reviews and that’s because few of them compare to the style of your writing. I am able to clearly understand this review. Also helps a lot as I attempt to put my own novel together.

    • Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I do try to highlight the key elements of a book that particularly stand out for me – and it is amazing how each writer I have encountered so far has had a different style and approach. When I start to read each book it is a writing mystery ravelling before me – which I find so intetesting to decipher. I am glad this will help with your own novel πŸ™‚ Have a great day.

  4. Karin says:

    My Goodreads “want to read” just grew again! πŸ™‚

  5. draliman says:

    Well, this is a coincidence. I’m currently at around page 100, having started reading it for my village’s new book group next month.
    So I haven’t read your review yet in case it gives the game away! I’ll bookmark it and come back later when I’ve finished reading πŸ™‚

    • That is a coincidence πŸ™‚ Do let me know your thoughts on the book when you have finished reading. Yes it’s best to steer clear of this review as it would certainly ruin your experience of the book πŸ™‚ I do hope you enjoy the book.

  6. Thank you for following my blog. A very thoughtful review and of particular interest was your visit to Pinterest and sharing your reaction.

  7. JC says:

    Wonderful review… you make me want to run out and buy the book this instant!

  8. jwforeva says:

    Sounds cool and creepy at the same time. Seems like Nella’s thrown into a world of disarray. Great review you got here πŸ™‚

  9. milliethom says:

    This is a great review – so detailed and thorough. πŸ™‚ I’ve just finished my re-read of Death on the Nile after reading your brilliant review of that. Now I have another book that sounds fascinating to add to my list. Thank you so much for this. I was looking for something a little different to read next. I’ll let you know what I think of it when I’ve finshed – just briefly, of course. πŸ™‚

    • Thank you, that’s so kind πŸ™‚ The miniaturist book was so detailed that I had to really try to dig out what captivated me about it…so this took a good couple of hours to write whilst I thought it through. I’m glad I inspired you to re-read Agatha’s book. She paints such a beautiful picture of the Nile that you feel as though you are there on the boat. I read it while the sun was out over a week and that added to the drama πŸ™‚ Do let me know what you think of the miniaturist, it will be great to get your insight πŸ™‚

  10. Jay says:

    You had me from the first sentence, and I just so happened to need a recommend!

  11. Henry Game says:

    You make me want to read this book. That is a job well done, in my opinion. Henry is not easy to please. Maybe you would like the chance to review the Henry Game novel when it is finished? Finally I buckled under the pressure to write it. I would love to have your take on it.

  12. The A Blog says:

    Ahh I absolutely loved this book! It’s written in such a great style. Speak soon! Assia πŸ™‚

  13. LΓ©a says:

    Thank you for warning re: spoilers. I have the book on my list and hate knowing too much about a book or film before diving in. πŸ™‚

    • You’re welcome. One of my pet hates is being told about books and films when I haven’t read / seen them…so I wouldn’t want to ruin it for others πŸ™‚ I hope you enjoy the book and come back to read my review. Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚

  14. Loved the review and i loved the book as well! I convinced a woman at the Greenwich Book Festival today to read this book! I thought it was amazingly written and the story broke my heart into several pieces….

    • Thank you so much for your comment! How funny that you recommended this book the same day I posted my review – the univese works in mysterious ways πŸ™‚ I was on Twitter earlier, looking up others posts on the book, and I discovered an hour long recorded interview of Maggie talking about her book. I am yet to listen, but it will be so interesting to see what she has to say. The book moved me too…such down-to-earth writing. I hope you enjoyed the Greenwich book festival – it sounds great πŸ™‚

  15. alexraphael says:

    “haunting, magical and suspenseful” – That’s a description! Also, how have I missed out on your blog for so long?!

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