Meet: Jessie Burton
Ahead of the launch of her NEW book, we caught up with author extraordinaire Jessie Burton to chat ALL things House of Fortune - set to hit shelves on 7th July. The sequel to her best-selling The Miniaturist, we pick back up with protagonist Nella 19 years later… Let’s get into it!
Hey Jessie! Can you describe what you do in five words?
Sit at desk, write novels!
Your new book The House of Fortune is a sequel to The Miniaturist, for those who need a recap can you give us a short synopsis of the story so far?
When we last saw Nella Oortman in Amsterdam in the year 1686, she was 18 years old, and going through a journey of growing up, with the losses and gains that entails. Now, we meet her again, age 37, older, a bit wiser, and stronger. But soon she realises that the happiness of her loved ones is under threat and that perhaps she has even more learning to do.
Intriguing! Female protagonists, secrets and gender inequalities are always strong themes in your work, tell us how they feature in House of Fortune?
I don’t want to give too much away, but there are a few secrets - subtle, old secrets, and new, explosive ones - that people are keeping from their loved ones in this novel. The women in this book are very close to each other and I enjoy giving them depth and richness as well as not always having to be ‘likeable’.
Shop Jessie's look with our ancient symbol of friendship, the Tropical Pineapple Pendant.
We recently collaborated on a giveaway featuring our Tropical Pineapple Pendant, symbolic of many things, what does this fruit mean in House of Fortune?
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the pineapple was a symbol of great luxury because it was difficult to grow outside of its natural habitat and very expensive. So it was representative of power and indulgence, as well as a taste of things beyond people’s usual experience. For some of the characters, it is a key to their freedom, for others, it’s something that should be left well alone.
Lucky enough to have a sneak preview of House of Fortune, we already can’t wait to know what happens to Thea and Nella next! Is there a third book in the wings?
Well, never say never! It’s been 13 years since I first started writing about Nella and her family, and I have other projects to tend to, but these characters hold such a special place in my imagination, that I wonder if I will ever be able to let them go.
As these characters are so special to you, is there a way that Nella and Thea or parts of their story relate to your life?
I do feel a real affinity with Nella, but to be honest all the characters I create are fragments of me, or idealised versions of the person I would like to be, or people I know. They are not ‘me’ as a whole, but the experiences I have had sometimes get reconfigured into the text. The plot of The House of Fortune is partly about coming to understand yourself better, about what you need, and what those who you love need. I think that’s a journey I’m always on. There’s heartbreak and reunion and understanding in the book, and that’s something I relate to.
Be the belle of your book group with the Glasses Necklace.
What makes you feel the most inspired to write?
The urge to capture the strangeness and beauty of life and leave it somehow living on the page.
As a mother, do you find there are any parallels between motherhood and writing a book?
On a metaphorical level, definitely. You gestate an idea for months and months, not quite sure what it will come out like at the end. You have a book in mind and a baby in mind, and you are its guardian - but ultimately both a child and the works of art you create, have to go out into the world free from your control.
If you could gift a copy of The House of Fortune to anyone, who would it be?
My grandma and grandpa, who died before I was published. I think they’d be so proud.
We think they would be too! Which inspiring women should we be following on Instagram?
@elizabday, @kara_walker_official, @beckybarnicomics, @rubyetc_, @tracyeminstudio, @traceeellisross
Have you got anything exciting coming up soon?
I’m working on a stage musical adaptation of my children’s book, The Restless Girls!
OMG! Feminism, fairytales and theatre, what more could we want?
Ready for some quickfire questions:
Statement or subtle? Statement
What have you been listening to lately? Khruangbin, and a lot of nursery rhymes
Fiction or Nonfiction? Fiction
Pattern or colour? Pattern!!
Thanks, Jessie! The House of Fortune is published by Picador on 7 July in hardback and eBook editions. Pre-order your copy with our friends at independent shop Book-ish NOW!