Posts Tagged ‘The Miniaturist’

Jessie Burton’s “The Miniaturist”

Friday, March 11th, 2016

Jessie Burton’s novel, The Miniaturist, is a world within a world. She’s the real miniaturist, bringing 17th-century Amsterdam, a time of intense global trade across Europe, Asia and Africa, alive – not with excessive detail but with a masterful eye for the perfect detail. A young woman, Nella, marries successful merchant Johannes Brandt, twenty years her senior, receiving a miniature of their home as a wedding gift. The miniaturist in the story possesses an unnatural power: she can see into people’s souls, thus she can see into the soul of a house and its inhabitant’s, knowing secrets that are hidden, knowing too the forces that loom unseen, ready to uplift or destroy. Nella must find her place in a home long occupied by her husband Johannes, his matriarchal sister Marin, the irreverent servant Cornelia, and the quietly intelligent Otto, an African rescued from a Portuguese slave ship. The miniature house, as entrancing is it is, holds more promise than it delivers, for Nella remains powerless in the face of it all; nothing she does within the little house impacts her larger life, and that’s a shame. But the merciless rigidity of society, its coldness and false piety, its desire for hatred and vengeance, set against the slow, sweet melting of love amongst the members of Nella’s family is a beautiful contrast. In the end, her family finds their strength in truth. Truth doesn’t save lives, but it saves the soul. Perhaps that’s what the miniaturist wanted for them all along.