Book Club Discussion: The Miniaturist

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. We’ve added our thoughts for each question as well. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

How would you describe the sense of place in The Miniaturist, and how does the novel present seventeenth century Amsterdam?

In the novel Amsterdam was far more rigid than I pictured it being when I studied the city and its  golden age of commerce during college. I was surprised about how gossipy and rule driven the city felt in the book, at least in Nella’s experience.

What does the gift of the cabinet house symbolise to Nella in terms of her marriage to Johannes and her own status?

While Johannes was trying to be kind, Nella took the gift of the doll house personally as a comment on her own age. She felt the gift was Johannes’s way of implying that she was a child and would enjoy childish things.

The Brandt household is full of secrets. Which made the biggest impression on you and why?

Marin’s room! The reveal of her curiosity filled room  was one of my favorite parts of the whole novel. It made me soften towards her character a bit after realizing she had a thirst for worldly knowledge and collecting. I have always loved the idea of curiosity cabinets, so it was fun that the concept was incorporated into the novel.

Did your attitude to the characters remain consistent throughout the novel, or did your loyalties shift as you kept reading? Which character provoked the strongest reaction from you?

I already mentioned my softening towards Marin as the book went on, but I never fully got on board with her character. It was fun to see Nella come into her own as the book went forward as she gained confidence and then finally, true control of the household.

Do you think the miniaturist is a magical force or a human one? What is the most important thing that Nella learns from her?

This aspect of the story was frustrating for me, as it bordered on magical realism but never truly or fully crossed the line into full on magic. I think the author intended that the magic/human explanation be difficult to figure out. I would lean more towards the human element, as it seems the miniaturist was always watching and Amsterdam is portrayed as a city where gossip travels fast.

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