First impressions are often deceiving.
The 2014 novel, The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton, is set in 17th century Amsterdam. Petronella Oortman or Nella as she is referred to, is a young woman from the countryside who is newly married to Johannes Brandt, an older and wealthy merchant. Leaving her widowed mother and younger siblings, Nella travels to Amsterdam to live with her new husband. She discovers that while the house itself is beautiful, it feels emotionally cold. While Johannes does not mistreat Nella, he does not act as newlywed is expected to act. Johannes’s unmarried sister, Marin, runs the household. Deeply religious and not afraid to speak her mind, Marin treats Nella with as much warmth as her brother does.
Johannes gives Nella a doll house as a wedding present. Made to look like a miniature of the real thing, Nella starts to order objects to fill up the dollhouse. Then things get weird as unexpected additions to the doll house are added that reveal truths that some would like to keep buried.
I loved this book. Nella is the eyes and ears for the reader. As she grows and discovers the truth about her new family, so does the reader. I very much appreciated that despite her initial shyness, Nella is a bright, inquisitive and empathetic character who is stronger than she appears to be. I also appreciated that Johannes, Marin and the other characters were brilliantly written and full of everything that makes a great character.
I recommend it.