The Miniaturist

Petronella is a young bride who has dreamt of marriage - her life with a husband and many children. A life of wealth, comfort, devoid of any dearth. She arrives at her newly wedded husband’s home in Amsterdam of 1600s, where businesses have made the city rich. Johannes, the husband is a wealthy merchant mostly away on travels for business trips, and the house runs on Marin, the sister-in-law’s commands - taptly, the mistress of the house. She is stoic in her expressions, direct in her comments, almost unkind, secretive, and wears black all the time. Unmarried too, proudly so. Nella meets Otto, the black manservant of the house, who is too free to speak his mind in front of his masters, as Nella notes. And finally Cornelia, the maid who runs the kitchen, cleans the doors, fetches and mends things, and peeps through keyholes learning everyone’s dark secrets. 

“Every woman is the architect of her own fortune.”

Each of them has a dark secret which they intend to protect fiercely. And Nella finds herself in midst of this secretive, mysterious family, one of the well-knowns in Amsterdam. As she gets to know them, spying her way into their cocooned corridors, she is up for heartbreaking revelations. The only solace through her days of knowing things, is her cabinet house- a replica of their home, with all nine rooms, that she had started filling in with the works from The Miniaturist - the elusive woman who foresees events before they happen. Nella awaits her courier from the Miniaturist, though the contents frighten her by their absolute similarity with the actual, but they also intrigue her by their beautiful and delicate craftsmanship. Is it a warning of sorts - a forecast of events to follow - or premonition - or just a thing of beauty? We as readers are thrilled when the lifelike dolls, replica of the people living in the house arrive at the doorstep.

“Everything Man Sees He Takes For A Toy.”

Events spiral and wreck havoc on their lives before anyone can comprehend. All puppetry is banned. The Church is strictly against any unnatural liasons. One goes missing, one faces deadly charges and another’s secrets are bound to bring the end of them all. The rising action in the novel was very intriguing, surprising the reader at every turn and twist, revealing layers after layers from the characters’ masks. A satisfying and interesting read. It’s mystery, suspense, thrill and social commentary of sorts for the 1600s, delving a bit into witchcraft and supernatural powers that were considered dark by the Church. 

“I fight to emerge.”

It reads like an elaborate exquisite puzzle, with many quotable passages. Interesting ensemble of characters. Unconventional mindsets, compared to the times and era. Like Nela sought freedom, importance and reputation through marriage, and Marin didn’t want marriage for herself, believing it to stifle her freedom and importance. 

“Some of us can work, back-breaking work, for which they won’t even pay us half of what a man could earn. But we can’t own property, we can’t take a case to court. The only thing they think we can do is produce children who then become the property of our husbands.” - Marin.

And Nella’s thoughts confuse her -

“Since arriving, a great part of her has urged, even attempted, to transform herself into what she has long assumed is a real wife, a proper woman. She has spent so long craving this transformation, solidifying it in her mind, she has become oblivious to its ambiguity. Now, the proper woman loses all her meaning. Nella’s solid desire is fragmenting, a mist inside her head. What does it even mean, to be a real wife?

Nella desperately wanted to be a wife, while Marin couldn’t tolerate being one. She thought it was a waste to be married.


I still question why as readers we are made to sympathize for Johannes when he actually raped another. Beyond my understanding. Another is why Marin suffers at the end- like in the old tragedies, those who are unconventional from the accepted norms of the society suffer - is very sad.


  1. The book sounds fascinating, even if it has sexist undertones. Makes me appreciate what we have today and simultaneously rue the fact that not much has changed in terms of mindsets.

  2. The questions you asked made me curious to read this book. :)


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Queeristan by Parmesh Sahani

  Queeristan (Amazon Link) Thanks to Audible Free Trial I listened to this amazing non-fiction on LGBTQ inclusion in Indian workplaces. Author Parmesh Sahani identifies as gay Indian, working closely with Godrej higher management and employees for years to create an inclusive workplace, both legally and in spirit. This book is a result of those years of experience, research, collaboration with individuals from difference spectrum of the society and organizations who has successfully transitioned into a queer friendly one.   Indian history is inclusive. From the Khajuraho temple architectures, to Konark to the Rig Veda, there is existing proofs even 2000 years ago of Indian inclusiveness of queer. It’s the draconian British law that criminalised it, which was scraped in 2009, came into effect once again following a sad judgement in 2013 and eventually was scraped off for good in 2018. I am in awe of the lawyers who fought this legal battle- colleagues and partners – Arundhati Katju

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