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REVIEW: The one thing Jessie Burton "felt compelled" to do when writing The House of Fortune

The power of Burton's writing is in the lush three-dimensional world she creates.

By Juliet Rieden
It is 1705 and we are back in the Amsterdam of Jessie Burton's 2014 novel The Miniaturist, only a generation later.
While this is a standalone, if you haven't read the first novel, now is the perfect opportunity.
The power of Burton's writing is in the lush three-dimensional world she creates – it's as if the paintings of the Dutch masters have sprung to life, the damp streets and elegant houses of the waterside city alive with dark, complex characters.
Nella Brandt, the heart of the first novel, is now a widow grappling with the disgrace heaped on her house following the death of her husband Johannes at the end of the first book, and the prurient fascination with her niece Thea, the illegitimate daughter of Johannes' sister Marin and his African man servant Otto.
The power of Burton's writing is in the lush three-dimensional world she creates. BUY NOW (Image: Booktopia)
Marin died in childbirth and in their wills brother and sister left their townhouse to Otto, as well as shares and small parcels of land outside the city to Nella.
As The House of Fortune opens 18 years have elapsed, and Nella, Otto, Cornelia (the house's cook) and Thea are still in the family home but struggling.
In theory they should have managed a comfortable existence with Otto, who had worked by Johannes' side for almost a decade, easily capable of continuing his business.
But the stain of shame from Johannes' past life and ugly racism levelled at Otto and Thea has taken its toll.
Burton (pictured) says she felt compelled to return to the characters of her first book. (Image: Instagram)
For her part Thea is unaware of her family history and desperate to know more about her mother, her father's childhood as a slave, and the reason aunt Nella is so reluctant to return to her own home in the countryside.
But no one is keen to tell Thea the truth. The naïve teenager is also hiding her own secret – a love affair with the chief set painter at the Schouwburg Theatre. But Nella has other plans – to find a wealthy suitor for her niece.
And the miniaturist whose spectre via beautifully crafted objects that signify eerie warnings, is back.
Burton says she felt compelled to return to the characters of her first book. "They've been a part of who I am, for a long time before I even wrote The Miniaturist. I can't ignore them, so if they want to come out, I have to let them," she teases.
The House of Fortune is a number one Sunday Times best seller. BUY NOW (Image: Instagram)
In The House of Fortune Burton hopes readers will "feel transported into a story of a woman at a crossroads in her life, wrestling with her past, and what shape her future is going to take. I have tried to write a portrait of an unorthodox family, one full of difficulties but also love."
Settle in for another intriguing page-turner.
For more hand-picked recommendations, read our top books for August.
You can read this story and many others in the August issue of The Australian Women's Weekly - subscribe here.
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