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8 of 9 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 2 months ago by Stuart C.

versus
127 of 136 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 5 months ago by Wynne Kelly


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127 of 136 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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148 of 163 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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15 of 16 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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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Historical fiction chicklit, 2 Mar. 2015
By 
Clarissa (Toronto, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Miniaturist (Paperback)
I fell for the avalanche of praise for The Miniaturist but am hugely disappointed. It's nothing more than a Harlequin romance about a virgin and a rich husband, with a mysterious sister thrown in. The language is cheesy, the dialogue arch and embarrassing. Maybe my hopes were too high to begin with. I threw it away. I don't know what Deborah Moggach, who I like, saw in it and I wish she hadn't misled me about this dreary retro girly novel.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Grim and Grimmer, 18 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: The Miniaturist (Kindle Edition)
I'm sorry but I found this book not to my taste at all. The story line was a bit grim. Each chapter unveiled more and more horrible things happening. As I read it I felt more and more unhappy. I did not feel any connection to any of the somewhat one dimensional characters. I question some of the historical (in)accuracy which helped to make the story unbelievable for me. I gave up at 67% through the book. I know how it ends because it was read for a book group list but I now have no desire to go finish the book.
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2 of 2 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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43 of 48 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very good writer but the plot was disappointing., 11 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: The Miniaturist (Kindle Edition)
Took a wee while to get going, this book had some lovely writing and evoked the place and time in 17th Century Amsterdam in its greed and small mindedness very well, but lacked a little in the plot. When you finished the book you kind of thought, "is that it?" I'd love to read more by this writer but with a better story.
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64 of 72 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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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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