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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read
It's a little while now since I read this book, but like several other books I've read this year but not yet written about here, I did want to share some reflections on it, so even if this isn't a very long post, I still wanted to try and put some thoughts together, so here we are.

I really enjoyed reading The Miniaturist. I found it a quite magical, wonderful...
Published 1 month ago by L. H. Healy

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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It's ok... at best
The review by Natalie B. below pretty much sums this up. After reading the endorsements and other reviews I thought I'd give it a go, but sadly wasn't impressed. By the end I cared nothing for any of the characters (the maid was the only one who made any sense) and they seemed to have really strange relationships (not in an interesting literary way, but rather seeming...
Published 3 months ago by Ms. L. Fox


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea., 26 Jun. 2015
This review is from: The Miniaturist (Paperback)
I was really looking forward to this book, I am not sure what I was expecting but it certainly wasn't this. The writing is long and tedious, the locations limited and she seems to describe a single location multiple times and yet other instances when a description of the setting would be useful, just skims over it. Many things seem to happen with little or no follow through or reasoning and I found myself struggling to believe many aspects.
Character development seemed to flick backwards and forwards as if the author couldn't quite decide how the characters should behave and reactions I would have expected from the character didn't happen making me question their behaviour previously.

I am not sure why this book is called the Miniaturist because you could have quite easily removed the entire dolls house without changing the story. I feel very let down that this plot line wasn't followed through and just seems to have been abandoned when the author got bored with it.

I struggled through the book and only felt it actually got going in the last couple of chapters, meaning I was left feeling cheated that the book finished when I was finally interested. It seemed to end as soon as there were some actually difficulties for the characters to face.

I hadn't realised that Patronella Brandt was the real life doll house owner until after I read the book. I feel quite insulted on her behalf. The story in the book would have been tremendously salacious at the time and I can't imagine this woman would have approved at her name being tarnished in this way. I agree with a previous reviewer that another name should have been imagined for this character. It seems very disrespectful.
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173 of 187 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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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It's ok... at best, 1 April 2015
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This review is from: The Miniaturist (Paperback)
The review by Natalie B. below pretty much sums this up. After reading the endorsements and other reviews I thought I'd give it a go, but sadly wasn't impressed. By the end I cared nothing for any of the characters (the maid was the only one who made any sense) and they seemed to have really strange relationships (not in an interesting literary way, but rather seeming like I'd totally missed a major event every now and then). The most frustrating thing was that at the end, nothing felt like it was concluded, and the miniaturist was such a minor part of the book that she and the miniature house could have been removed and not affected the story at all in my view. The writing is fine once the story really gets started (about 150 pages in...) and then has a good pace (early pages, not so much), but the annoyances above meant that it was an unsatisfying read.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating and odd read that promised so much at the beginning, 1 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Miniaturist (Kindle Edition)
Wanted so much to love it and I did at first. Loved the writing (at first) and the setting, and Marin's bedroom was my favourite place in the book. But the plot very soon became tedious and unbelievable and the story got stuck like an old record. Sugar. Sugar.... I suspected we'd never meet the namesake of the book and her actions were not fully explained and washed over like.... And I was right. But I didn't want to be right in this instance and I always like to be right.

Nella as a provincial inexperienced girl was unconvincing in her character arc. If she was as bold as she was portrayed towards the end then why didn't she prevent the fate of her hubby as she could so easily have done in the courtroom. "Hey everybody, Frans is lying. He said Johannes satisfactorily traded his sugar but I can prove that's not true - come to the warehouse and see for yourself if you don't believe a young woman. He's not sold one sodden sugar cone!" Bingo. That would have been my satisfactory ending.

And why was Johannes so reluctant to sell the sodden sugar - surely it was his main income and in his best interest and he was Amsterdam's best man for the job?? Or did I miss something! Oh, yes - sorry, for convenience sake! Marin was always on his case about this. It just didn't ring true with his supposed character. He didn't even explain his reluctance well (just conveniently put down to the time of year) but, hello!, isn't Christmas the best time to sell sugar when everyone is stuffing their faces with the stuff?! No apparently it's the worst convenient time of year to sell sugar. What a load of tosh.

Everything seemed so "convenient" and washed over and unexplained - simply because it wasn't plausible and explainable. Very weak plot with holes. And the miniature house at the end that suddenly, inexplicably (again) disppeared from Nella's pocket and into the hands of the other Petronella (!) at the church and into the grave of the woman with the fur-lined robes (first chapter). I bought that. Not. So weak!

Favourite characters: the 2 dogs and Cornelia. Didn't buy into any of the others. And Johannes/Nella relationship so not happening that I didn't even feel for him at the end which should have ripped my soul in half. I cry at strangers saying goodbye in stations. Not a poxy tear. I felt robbed.

Is this one a case of The Emperor's New Clothes, perhaps?

You can see the frustration it brought out in me! A very frustrating and odd read that promised so much.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A complete change of opinion!, 12 May 2015
This review is from: The Miniaturist (Kindle Edition)
The Miniaturist by Jesse Burton is one of those books of which my opinion starts one way but changes completely by the end! It took me a good third of the book to really get into it- I just found the first 150 pages or so pretty slow and struggled to concentrate fully. I could still appreciate the wonderful language Burton used throughout and the interesting, vibrant characters but the storyline just wasn't drawing me in. I knew it was bound to be worth persevering with though, and I was so glad I did!

The Miniaturist really is beautifully written. Burton's writing is full of intrigue and mystery; I could almost imagine being in 17th century Amsterdam with them all, as well as the vibrant- but at times threatening and scary - atmosphere that surrounds them all. Similarly the characters are all wonderfully constructed and convincing, covering a wide range of class, profession and personality type. I felt that the atmosphere grew as the novel went on, and after the first third or so I really became quite enchanted by it.

The novel addresses some serious themes and doesn't shy away from highlighting the awful treatment of certain groups of people in Amsterdam during this era. I certainly felt quite emotional during certain scenes. It certainly makes you consider how far Western society has come, but also how far we have left to go when tackling these kinds of prejudices.

Overall despite the less amazing start (in my opinion anyway), I finished the book having really enjoyed it. I am really impressed that this is Jesse Burton's debut novel and although I'm not usually a huge reader of historical fiction, but this still really drew me in as it went on!

Visit my blog: www.snazzybooks.com
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The supernatural haunts a home in 17th century Amsterdam, 11 Mar. 2015
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: The Miniaturist (Kindle Edition)
I feel sorry for Nella and as bewildered as she was. Here, in 1686, is this 18 year old girl from a small country town starting on an arranged marriage in Amsterdam with Johannes Brandt, a wealthy merchant of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) who is a little more than twice her age. When she arrives in his house, he is not there to receive her - there is only his sour, unwelcoming and Puritanical sister Marin and two servants: Cornelia, who is freer in her speech than Nella expected a servant to be, and Otto, the dark-skinned youth Johannes has brought from Surinam. For the first eleven days Johannes pays her scarcely any attention and he certainly does not take her to his bed. She is desperately lonely. What will she do with herself all day? To ewhile away her boredom, he has commissioned a miniaturist to make for her a large doll’s house, a replica of the house in which they live. She thinks that at eighteen she is too old for such a toy. But then, mysteriously, packets are delivered from the miniaturist containing exact copies of what is in the house, down to perfect little models of Johannes’ two dogs. It does not help that she scarcely understands much of what he eventually says to her when he takes her out to a grand party, where she meets Frans and Agnes Meermans whose fateful commercial and personal connections with the Brandts will play a big part in the rest of the story. Nor does she during those first few weeks understand the answers of the two servants to her hesitant questions. When she is spoken to during that time, she is mostly timid and brief in her replies. The whole atmosphere is mysterious and rather sinister.

After a while Nella discovers a shocking secret in the life of Johannes and learns secrets and vulnerabilities about Marin, too. More little models are delivered, now no longer merely copies of the contents of the house but eerily embodying elements in her recent life. All Nella’s attempts to meet the miniaturist fail, and we never really get to the bottom of the mysteries.

About half way through there is a scene of grand guignol, after which the pace of the novel quickens considerably, in a mixture of more mysteries (a couple of the little models change to reflect recent events) and one high drama following hard upon another as the story, which lasts for just five months from start to finish, hurtles towards its macabre end. The characters also become much more alive than they were in the first half of the novel. The second half is really gripping; the Historic Present and the vivid descriptions which have been used throughout the book, now really come into their own.
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44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't believe the hype!, 26 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: The Miniaturist (Kindle Edition)
I am only giving this 2 stars because as a story of 17th century life in Amsterdam this is an okay (just about) read.
However, as others have already pointed out, the development of the characters over such a short period of time make absolutely no sense whatsoever, and one minute they are strong, the next they are weak. And no, you never actually engage or care for any of the characters - I personally wouldn't have anything to do with them if I ever had the misfortune of being anywhere near their social circles!
The "Miniaturist", in the end, turns out to be the book's version of a movie's MacGuffin and you actually feel conned by this when you reach the end of the book. This effect of feeling conned is exaggerated by the opening chapter dangling a carrot to the reader that is never answered in the final chapter.
I'm sorry to be so negative and if someone would like to enlighten me as to where I went wrong then please do so.
To summarize, an okay book if you like historical fiction; a poor book if you were expecting more than that, find something more interesting. It was one of those books I found myself forced to read to the end to see what, if anything, would happen, but eventually realised it was so many hours of my life that I would never get back!
After this, I read "the 1st fifteen lives of Harry August" by Claire North - wow, now there's a book and an author that truly astounded me - read that one instead of this and don't believe the hype.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading, 7 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Miniaturist (Kindle Edition)
I enjoyed this book but felt badly let down by the ending.

Petronella is an innocent country girl brought to Amsterdam to live with her much older husband Johannes and his spinster sister Marin. He shows little interest in her until he presents her with a miniature house. Mysterious packages start to arrive from "the miniaturist" who seems to be predicting to be predicting the future.

We meet the Meermans, supposedly friends of Johannes and Marin and Jack from England who is way too confident for his humble position.

The description s of 17th century Amsterdam have been well researched and its hypocrisy and prejudices feel frighteningly real.

Which is why I felt so cheated by the ending. Difficult without spoiling it but Johannes speech was drowned out so petronella could not hear it! Here was the chance to bring all the threads together and shake up all of Amsterdam and no one could hear his speech! His enemies just fade away , two people die and a baby is born. We never meet the miniaturist although she is still somewhere in Amsterdam.

If the author is brave enough there is enough material for a sequel with the two petronellas perusing their trades and Thea growing up in a hostile city. Hopefully the Meermans and Jack will come to a deserved sticky end next time!
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196 of 220 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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59 of 66 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sorry…it's awful..., 4 Aug. 2014
By 
Jane (West Yorkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Miniaturist (Hardcover)
I liked the central premise of this story, and really wanted to like the book, but the writing is awful. It's overblown and tedious, and is peppered with metaphors and similes that don't work. I thought at first it must have been a (poor) translation, but no. None of the characters are appealing or seem real, the dialogue is completely unbelievable, and there so many holes in the plot; there are a lot of 'surprise' twists that are also fully predictable. The writer has clearly done some research into the detail of life in this era, but not nearly enough to write convincingly. Johanne's dogs, for example, are said to be whippets, a breed that didn't exist until the 19th century, and weren't used as any sort of guard dog. There seems to be little or no understanding of the social mores of the time, either. Just silly. I don't really blame the author - it's her first novel - but I can only imagine she received little or no editorial guidance.
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