When any book is adapted for television some changes must be made and Jessie Burton’s novel The Miniaturist is no different.
Burton’s book is set in 1686 and opens with 18-year-old Nella Oortman beginning a new life as the wife of wealthy Amsterdam merchant, Johannes Brandt. But instead of Johannes, she’s met by his cold sister Marin and quickly realises that nothing is quite right in the Brandt household.
When Johannes finally appears he presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a doll’s house replica of their home which is to be furnished by an elusive Miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror what is happening within the house in unexpected ways and seem to be predicting and unravelling the future with eery accuracy.
** WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD**
Don’t say Johannes didn’t warn you…
When adapting the book into the two-part BBC drama, screenwriter John Brownlow – with the blessing of author Jessie Burton – wrote a brand new scene in which Nella (Anya Taylor-Joy), actually meets the titular miniature model maker (played by Humans star Emily Berrington).
Emily Berrington as The Miniaturist (BBC/ The Forge, SD)
“The main character of the title, The Miniaturist, doesn’t appear a huge amount in the book and we felt that that was a slight oversight” the show’s executive producer, Kate Sinclair, explained on the set of the Boxing Day drama. Nella – whose world is turned upside down by the tiny items and curious dolls delivered to her Amsterdam home – only meets the miniaturist’s father in Burton’s 2014 novel, and it’s up to him to offer some insight into the mysterious character’s world.
“We felt that wasn’t right for this story and we didn’t want our audience to feel cheated,” Sinclair explained, “so John has written a very beautiful scene where the two of them meet and Nella finds out more about who she is and why she’s doing what she’s doing.”
Nella and the miniaturist’s meeting isn’t the only tweak that’s been made for the sake of the TV drama, though.
Fans who were left wondering about the fate of Nella’s parakeet, Peebo, are in for a treat. And we’ll also get a deeper insight into Johannes Brandt’s thoughts about the sugar he’s holding for his friends and rivals, Frans and Agnes Meermans.
“The role of the sugar was very key because I think we felt it wasn’t very clear why Johannes wasn’t selling the sugar,” Sinclair said. “He does explain that to Nella at a point in the story now.”