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The House of Fortune by Jessie Burton review – bold and exciting sequel to The Miniaturist | Fiction

There is a peculiar rigor to Jessie Burton’s writing. It is interesting that she should have started her career – with the million sales Miniaturists (2014) – in Amsterdam during the last years of the Dutch golden age, when the wealth of the Calvinist Netherlands was only matched by its frugality and industriousness. The atmosphere of seriousness and opulence seems to have led through to Burton’s prose on a formal level. Her writing is both removed and dignified, although this coldness is counteracted by an almost obsessive intimacy with the physical world. Objects light up the rooms around them; she is brilliant in the way that dress and decoration speak highly of the personality and ambitions of those who possess them.

After two more or less contemporary novels, The mouse (2016) and The confession (2019), and two books for younger readers, The restless girls (2018) and Medusa (2021), Burton has returned to the world of Miniaturists for her fourth novel for adults. It is always difficult to review a sequel without ruining the first book for those who have not yet read it. Let’s say that Miniaturists ended with one birth and two deaths, and a new order imposed on the Brandt house at the golden turn of the Herengracht canal.

We are now jumping 18 years ahead to a completely different Amsterdam. Poorly judged wars and poor investments have weakened the Netherlands and the city is under a cloud. We open on Thea’s 18th birthday, in a home that feels both claustrophobic and haunted by tragedy: “joy in this household is always marked by fear of loss.” Thea is the narrative engine in this book as Nella, her kind aunt, was the engine in the previous novel. Thea is bubbly and curious, desperate to know more about her dead mother. She is also bewitched by a charismatic set designer, Walter, “the only person who can drive her from her covers”. However, Thea’s family has other ideas about her romantic life and sees her engagement as a way to recover a fortune that has been largely eroded.

It’s always interesting when a writer returns to the world of history for a book after a time gone by. The mistakes tend to be more than the hits – for each The will there are two or three Imperial bedroom or a Fight Club 2. With Burton, however, you get the feeling of a writer who is far more comfortable in her skin, one who in Thea has found a character to revive the physical and emotional landscape of early modern Amsterdam. Thea is wilder and more headstrong than Nella ever was, and despite the financial problems that haunt her family, this is a book with a warmer heart than the slightly cool original. The titular Miniaturist of Burton’s debut returns here, leaving behind gifts that point to a supernatural ability to see past facades to deeper truths – an conceit that always seemed to gesture against the author’s power.

IN The House of Fortune, Burton has done the rare thing, and followed up a successful debut with a novel that is superior in both style and substance. What is jubilant is that after a series of adventures, Thea and Nella are left staring at a new world, which indicates that there is more to tell about this boldly unconventional Dutch family.

The House of Fortune by Jessie Burton is published by Pan Macmillan (£ 16.99). To support Verge and Observer order your copy at Delivery costs may apply

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