Jessie Burton ~ The House of Fortune
Thea Brandt is turning eighteen, and is ready to welcome adulthood with open arms. At the theatre, Walter, the love of her life, awaits her, but at home in the house on the Herengracht, winter has set in – her father Otto and Aunt Nella argue endlessly, and the Brandt family are selling their furniture in order to eat. On Thea’s birthday, also the day that her mother Marin died, the secrets from the past begin to overwhelm the present.
Nella is desperate to save the family and maintain appearances, to find Thea a husband who will guarantee her future, and when they receive an invitation to Amsterdam’s most exclusive ball, she is overjoyed – perhaps this will set their fortunes straight. And indeed, the ball does set things spinning: new figures enter their life, promising new futures. But their fates are still unclear, and when Nella feels a strange prickling sensation on the back of her neck, she wonders if the miniaturist has returned for her…
When people ask me who my favourite authors are, I wouldn’t have said Jessie Burton. And yet, I’ve read and enjoyed all of her books (The Muse is one of my all-time favourite books), so perhaps she is!
Although this book is the sequel to The Miniaturist, calling it The Miniaturist #2 seems a misnomer. While she does feature, her presence is slight and without it the outcome of the book would be no different.
That aside, it was a delight to catch up with the characters and return to Amsterdam. Thea is now 18 and on the cusp of womanhood, struggling with familial obligations, her own desires and guilt. She’s feisty and yet naïve – the best (and worst) kind of heroine – and we know exactly what mistakes she’ll make on her journey, and exactly who is blackmailing her.
While I would argue it could be read on its own, because it’s a totally different book, understanding Nella’s perspective is helped by having read the first one. What I like with Burton’s books is the attention to detail and the richness of the settings: everything is clearly visual in the mind when reading and the sounds and smells are just as vivid.
It’s a slow burner for sure, and it lacks the mystery and foreboding of The Miniaturist. However, it provides excellent insight into this period of history, the role of women and the different layers of society. It’s also a jolly good read.
Thank you to Picador Books for my proof copy. Opinions my own.