Already puzzled by the indifference of her new husband, merchant-trader Johannes Brandt, 18-year-old Nella feels insulted by his seemingly childish wedding gift: a pricey dollhouse whose tiny rooms replicate the decor and layout of their home. However, she grows intrigued when the furnishings she commissions from a miniaturist reveal uncannily prescient insight into their household.
Full of surprises and layers of secrets, the plot gathers suspense as Nella seeks answers from the enigmatic miniaturist and tension heightens between Johannes and a business associate over unsold sugar. While Nella’s determination and colorful observations are appealing, the inscrutability of her chilly sister-in-law, Marin, deepens the sense of mystery. The interactions between these strong characters and their spirited maid, Cornelia, make this refreshingly different historical novel a standout portrayal of the wide range of women’s ingenuity.
The Miniaturist will be published by Ecco in August ($26.99, hb, 416pp). This review first appeared in Booklist Online on June 13th. This is by necessity a short review, but if you want to read even more about the novel, including an interview with the author, it's the focus of Shelf Awareness' Maximum Shelf today. Also be sure to check out the real Dolls' House of Petronella Oortman (which is the birth name of The Miniaturist's main character) at the Rijksmuseum site in the Netherlands.