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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History in a House
This is an excellent debut novel and now tops the paperback book sale charts.
I liked the historical period - Amsterdam at the height of it's mercantile powers in 17th century - and the attention to detail for the period was good. The claustrophobic atmosphere caused by the community's adherence to an extreme version of protestantism is also palpable.
The...
Published 1 month ago by Stuart Sussex Scribe

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110 of 116 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a soap opera.....
This historical novel has a really interesting setting: the merchant class of late 17th century Amsterdam.
Eighteen year old country girl Nella is happy to marry Johannes but soon finds life very difficult in her new household. Johannes’s spinster sister Marin seems to be very much in charge of the house and Nella struggles to assert herself. Also in the...
Published 4 months ago by Wynne Kelly


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110 of 116 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a soap opera....., 12 Oct. 2014
By 
Wynne Kelly "Kellydoll" (Coventry, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Miniaturist (Hardcover)
This historical novel has a really interesting setting: the merchant class of late 17th century Amsterdam.
Eighteen year old country girl Nella is happy to marry Johannes but soon finds life very difficult in her new household. Johannes’s spinster sister Marin seems to be very much in charge of the house and Nella struggles to assert herself. Also in the house is Cornelia, an orphan maid and Otto, an African servant who has been brought back by Johannes from one of his travels abroad.

Nella is confused and puzzled when Johann avoids all physical contact with her. She soon realises this is a house full of secrets. She is offended when her husband present her with a cabinet containing an exact replica of their house – she wants to be in charge of a real house not a play one. Soon strange things begin to happen when she orders some miniatures to go in the house. She never meets the mysterious “miniaturist” who creates beautiful and intricate objects – but they begin to arrive unsolicited and seem to predict the future.

The creation of social life in the late 1600s is well done. I also like the way in which Nella gains an understanding of the family dynamics and finally reaches an accommodation with a very difficult situation. Having said that, it was a bit of a soap opera in parts!

The weakest aspect was the mysterious miniaturist. I was waiting for a rational explanation but this never arrived.
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114 of 124 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful., 5 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: The Miniaturist (Hardcover)
I didn't believe in the characters. Everyone spoke using the same voice, regardless of their gender or social status, and their behaviour unfolded in ways which didn't make sense. One minute a character is nervous and provincial, feeling out of her depth; the next she is asserting herself and challenging people without, apparently, a second thought. One character passionately kisses another in the middle of a violent scene, for no obvious reason, and it is not questioned by anybody, nor ever mentioned again. The act, and the other character's reaction to it, made no sense.

I didn't believe in the relationships. One minute a character is so shocked and repulsed they take to their bed for days; the next minute they accept it and carry like nothing happened, defending them unconditionally against other people who are shocked and repulsed. Nella and Johanne's relationship develops and matures despite them spending hardly any time together. There is a big plot twist involving a secret relationship despite there being barely any interaction between those characters.

I didn't believe in the plot. Even ignoring the supernatural/miniaturist side show, the plot seemed anachronistic and unlikely.

Worse, I didn't care about the plot. The pace was so slow and repetitive. I felt bored every time Nella set off for the miniaturist's house because it was so obvious that something would happen to stop her reaching it, or if she did there would be no reply. There wasn't any sense of anticipation about it because I didn't believe anything interesting would happen even if she did make contact with her. The twists were predictable. I didn't see the point of the miniaturist. The existence of the cabinet house and the miniaturist didn't add anything to the story. Nella never makes any sense of it, and doesn't learn anything from it.

Despite the apparently supernatural powers of the miniaturist, the writing didn't create any sense of 'magic'. Instead, the prose was pretentious, overblown and tedious.

On a wider note, I felt annoyed on behalf of Petronella Oortman that Burton appropriated her name and her doll's house, creating an entirely fictional and salacious story around her life. It felt non-consensual, and unnecessary. I understand that she felt inspired by seeing the cabinet in the Rikjsmuseum when she was in Amsterdam on holiday. I don't understand why she felt the need for the object in her story to be that exact cabinet, owned by a woman named Petronella Oortman/Brandt, married to a man named Johannes Brandt, when all other details about her life were going to be fictional. The book is not a fictionalised biography, so why did Burton not just think of some names for her characters? It seems entitled.

I am bemused by the hype.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History in a House, 14 Jan. 2015
This review is from: The Miniaturist (Paperback)
This is an excellent debut novel and now tops the paperback book sale charts.
I liked the historical period - Amsterdam at the height of it's mercantile powers in 17th century - and the attention to detail for the period was good. The claustrophobic atmosphere caused by the community's adherence to an extreme version of protestantism is also palpable.
The character list is quite short, as you would expect for a married woman at the time, but they are all well drawn and interesting - a negro ex-slave, the unpleasant sister Marin, the secretive husband Johannes, the greedy Meermans couple and the awful Pellicorne.
I only didn't give this 5 stars because of a few foibles; the writing is a bit clumsy at times and the plot with the Miniaturist is incomprehensible.
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51 of 56 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A hammy soap-opera with dreadful writing, 12 Jan. 2015
By 
Kate (Manchester) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Miniaturist (Paperback)
This is a contrived, hammy, soap-opera of a novel, with superficial characterization and artificially cryptic dialogue. Sections of the writing are so bad that it's almost comical. Dots of gravy on the table cloth are virgin islands, for example. "The child inside her is a pilgrim descending her heights." WHAT?!

Period detail is stuffed in at any opportunity, as if the author constantly wants to remind us how much research she's done. However, the characters remain completely one-dimensional, with modern sensibilities that seem entirely anachronistic in the historical setting.

I should add that I rarely write reviews of books - only if they are extremely good or, sadly in this case, if they are extremely bad.
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43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good but ..., 19 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: The Miniaturist (Kindle Edition)
I found this book very readable and it flows well. The Miniaturist has lots going for it .. an interesting plot, unusual setting, dramatic twists and characters I cared about. However I was disappointed in aspects of the story, I felt the writing lacked depth at times and was often stilted , particularly when describing very dramatic events which demanded an emotional response yet left me completely cold. I felt at times the characters did and said things that seemed contrived in the face of the event that had just happened and I felt frustrated by it! The mystery of the miniaturist never really came to anything, and although it was an interesting plot device I would have liked to know more detail and background about the characters lives and thoughts, and the plot, which was strong enough to stand alone. It just wasn't quite as good as I wanted it to be - but very nearly!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 25 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Miniaturist (Paperback)
Initially I resisted this book, as I do all overhyped novels. However, curiosity won out in the end. I had difficulty getting into the story because of the superficial introduction of the characters and setting. I felt I did not believe in this strange household. Then I became more involved and began to think that perhaps it merited its popularity. Even so, some of the writing does not flow, impeded by clunky choice of descriptive adjectives and metaphors. At times, the author seems to be saying "look, aren't I clever!". I am now reaching the end of the book and the plot has become so improbable that it's hard to find a reason to read on. I think the weakness of the book lies in the characterization. We never get to know these characters deeply enough to understand their, often irrational, actions. Like the miniature figures, they are not real in the sense that well-written characters are real to the reader. A better plot would have brought the characters to life. Instead, they remain the author's puppets.
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54 of 61 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Remember 'Rebecca'? Touches of similar, but long way to go., 16 Sept. 2014
This review is from: The Miniaturist (Hardcover)
Would you look at that cover! Who would not want to explore further such an exquisite house, a cabinet sized replica of the beautiful home once lived in by a wealthy Dutch family in the the late seventeenth century. In the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam the cabinet house of Petronella Oortman is on display. Petronella was the wife of a wealthy merchant and did what lots of wealthy wives did - had a replica made of her home, made with marble, tortiseshell, art works by artists of the day and so on. Exquisite, extravagant and expensive do not even begin to adequately describe such works of art. The author has based her totally fictional historical novel on this lady and her cabinet house. But as there is no further information about the lady and her life, the story created by the author is totally fictional.

When it was published earlier this year, this novel was highly anticipated, and Ms Burton was touted to be the new Sarah Waters or Donna Tartt. Bit off the mark on that one I am afraid. It starts off promisingly however - 18 year old Petronella (Nella), daughter of an impoverished but well connected widow, arrives in Amsterdam from a country town, married in haste to an older man, the very successful and widely courted merchant trader Johannes Brandt. In the tradition of Rebecca and Jane Eyre, the man of the story is absent much of the time, leaving the poor young naive heroine in the clutches of a number of other residents of the house. In this case Johannes' sister Marin who is the other main character in the story, and the two house servants - Otto who happens to be African, and Cornelia. Naturally there is much mystery surrounding each of these characters.

The absent husband, with his own mysterious background and dodgy deals, arranges for the house replica to be delivered to Nella as a wedding gift. It immediately fascinates her and in her lonliness and isolation slowly takes over her life. She very intrepidly locates a miniaturist - a craftsman - to furnish and decorate the house for her, and fill it with people. For me, at this point, it really started to get just a little bit fanciful. And also quite complicated in its plot. From the title I thought the book was going to be about the miniaturist and the relationship between that person and Nella. But it moved away completely from this idea, with Nella becoming an observer/spectator to what was going on around her of which there was plenty. And I can't say anymore as it will give too much away!

Overall this was not a satisfactory read. The author is definitely passionate about her subject, and has done considerable research, but there was almost too much going on, too many characters with complicated stories and objectives. I didn't get confused, I just got bored. On her website the author says her book 'focuses on two women’s very different journeys to find a slice of freedom in a repressive, judgmental society.' And it does, but it just does not seem to hang together very well to achieve that aim.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not so good really don't know what all the fuss is about, 3 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Miniaturist (Kindle Edition)
Not so good really don't know what all the fuss is about? Ok it's a bit girly that's alright but it has to be one of the most depressing books I've ever read it's just one disaster after another, it's all so very linear in it's construction so there's a lack of perspective about the narrative characters are rather 2 dimensional all in all not very accomplished..
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not convinced., 27 Oct. 2014
By 
Pamela Thomas (Wiltshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Miniaturist (Hardcover)
I'm giving this three stars because I found the story quite easy to read and for a while I was immersed in Petronilla's world. But then I started to notice the inconsistencies in the characters. None of them - except perhaps for Petronilla herself - rang true, they were a collection of characteristics and attitudes rather than real personalities, and I couldn't get a handle on them, they changed too much, sometimes from page to page, and without any consistency. The plot, too, was maddeningly vague - things happened without apparent rhyme or reason, the mysterious miniaturist and her skills were never adequately explained, and although the claustrophobic, censorious and frankly nosy nature of 17th century Amsterdam came across, I felt the book as a whole didn't live up to the promise of its blurb and its cover. A shame, because I love dolls' houses.
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84 of 96 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars In the minority here..., 17 July 2014
By 
Brida "izumi" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Miniaturist (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I wonder if I have missed something with this novel. Other reviewers have said that they see it as a fairy tale for adults; well, I'm afraid I just couldn't see that connection. I really didn't get swept up in this novel - I felt that the characters just seemed superficial, the pace of the book was very slow and the story failed to pique my interest.
So, although I seem to be in the minority here, I am sorry to say that it just wasn't my cup of tea.
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