Mysteries and Miniatures – The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Sometimes a book comes along that catches me up completely… I find myself stealing snatches of time while I should be cooking, or preparing the kids for their day… And, once the house is asleep, I read all night, unable to close the covers, promising myself that this one chapter will be my last.

The most recent book to cross my path and make such an impact on my life was Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist. Those who know me know that I love historical fiction. I had seen this book doing the rounds at the library and read Monique’s intriguing review here. But it wasn’t until I downloaded the audio book that I suddenly discovered this was a book I HAD to read.

Jessie Burton is an English writer – she is also an actress. She reads her own work in the audiobook of The Miniaturist. It’s really nice hearing an author read their stuff, especially when they are a talented orator like Jessie. You hear the inflections and rhythm of the words just as the author intended. I think I listened to one chapter whilst traveling and then rushed out to buy the book.

I’m so glad I did.

‘Marin’s room is at the end of the first floor corridor and has remained unexplored, and she eyes its distant keyhole, wondering what bare cell must lie within. Her fury almost propels her in. Who is Marin to tell her no? She is the mistress of this house, after all.’
– The Miniaturist
Jessie Burton

The Miniaturist is an accomplished first novel; a meditation on the victories and vices of 17th Century Amsterdam. It charts the tale of Petronella (Nella) Oortman, a young woman who has been forced by circumstance to marry a man 20 years her senior, the wealthy Amsterdam merchant Johannes Brandt. Brought to live in his home, she is intrigued by the unusual staff, bullied by her sister-in-law and ignored by her new husband. To appease her, Johannes purchases a miniature house, the exact replica of Nella’s new abode. Unfurnished, it is a grim reminder of everything she desires and has been denied thus far.

In a fit of rebellion, Nella heads out to find the mysterious miniaturist who lives in the marketplace and requests a few small items. When they arrive, she is intrigued but disturbed to find that they meet so precisely the requirements she issued. As relationships within the house begin to fracture, the Miniaturist’s gifts begin to arrive unasked for, resembling with uncanny accuracy the state of turmoil within Nella’s new family…

If you are looking for your next read after the exhausting Christmas season, I highly recommend you try Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist. It has everything I love in a book – mystery and a touch of dark magic, complex characters who are not what they seem and sensual, lyrical language which will leave you breathless (and not a bit envious!)

The Miniaturist is published by Picador and available now.

Peebo Cookies

Peebo is Nella’s special parakeet which she brings with her from Assendelft, her former home. A lovely character in the book, he is a symbol for Nella’s new situation; trapped in his gilded cage, unable to spread his wings and fly.

I thought it would be fun to make some parakeet cookies based on Peebo. If you’d like to make some too, you will need the following:

* Parrot cookie cutter (mine was a Wilton plastic one from their 101 Shapes box)
* Royal Icing tinted egg yellow (beak and claws), leaf green (feathers), super red (highlight feathers), super black (eye).
* Piping tips 1.5 (PME), 2 & 3

Step 1. After baking your cookies, outline and flood your Peebo’s with green icing.

Step 2.
Use the 1.5 tip with your super red icing to add red lines immediately after you have flooded with your green icing.

Step 3.
Drag a toothpick through the icing to make the red ‘feathers’.

Step 4.
After allowing Peebo to dry (about 8 hours), add the beak using the egg yellow icing.

Step 5.
Add the eyes using super black icing.

Step 6.
Add Peebo’s ‘outer’ wing, piping and flooding it onto his body. Finally, add his claws using the egg yellow icing.

I hope you will be inspired to go out and find a copy of Jessie Burton’s fabulous new novel, or make some Miniaturist-inspired Peebo cookies.

Happy reading and baking until next time!

2 Comments on Mysteries and Miniatures – The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

  1. Sarah
    January 5, 2015 at 12:20 pm (3 years ago)

    Got a dymocks voucher for Christmas, might have to put this one on the list.


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