In the 17th century, dolls' houses were not toys; they were a hobby, the equivalent for women of the collection cabinets kept by men - RijksmuseumThe Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is set in 1686 Amsterdam. Eighteen year old Petronella Oortman (Nella) arrives in the city following an arranged marriage to Johannes, a wealthy trader who is much
I read this novel on a trip to Amsterdam because I planned to see the 17th century dollhouses at the Rijksmuseum. It moves along at a very slow pace in the beginning and I nearly set it aside but the story suddenly ramps up. The star of The Miniaturist is Amsterdam in its Golden Age. Unfortunately the characters are anachronistic; it is impossible to imagine the socially progressive Nella existing in Amsterdam at that period of time. The rapid escalation of the relationship of Johannes and Nella from stone cold to deep and enduring friendship is also unbelievable. Those who prefer to have the loose ends tied up at the end of a story will likely be disappointed because the central mystery is unresolved. It is not a great work of fiction but it created a backdrop for my own experience of the city so I enjoyed it.