The Miniaturist

With her father dead and the family in debt, 18-year-old Nella Oortman is married off to Johannes Brandt, a high-ranking merchant powerbroker for the Dutch East India Company in September 1686. She moves from her countryside home to Amsterdam, but Johannes isn't waiting to meet her. Instead, she is greeted by her husband's severe sister, Marin, who grudgingly welcomes Nella into the household.

Kind but distant and frequently absent, Johannes does little to appease his new wife or tame his overbearing sister, whom Nella overhears telling Johannes how to make trades and other business decisions. She has many questions she'd like to ask her frugal sister-in-law, but Marin answers in riddles. Aggression increases between the two women, and when Johannes presents his bride with an extravagant gift--an exact model replica of their home--the balance of power begins to shift.

Nella finally leaves the house in search of a miniaturist who can help her decorate Johannes's gift, but the shop is always empty. In response to her notes, the miniaturist sends her cryptic messages and unsolicited parcels: uncannily precise furniture reproductions and eerily accurate replicas of the inhabitants of Nella's world. How does this mysterious craftsperson know so much about the complex relationships in the household? Can this artisan/prophet see into the future, or have some sort of ominous control over Nella's fate?

In Jessie Burton's atmospheric debut, The Miniaturist, the powers of love and obsession, sins and secrets, loyalty and forgiveness bind together a cast of sympathetic characters who all have a part to play in a collectively chilling conclusion. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

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