As early as 2016 I knew I wanted to write the next stage of Nella’s story, continuing where I left off from the last scene in The Miniaturist, but I couldn’t find my way. I was pushing myself, and Nella, too hard, too soon, and was not ready to engage with that world which had changed my life. Even so, the fantastical place of seventeenth-century Amsterdam, and the fate of Nella Brandt, often played on my mind. I focused on other stories I wanted to tell, but Nella was always there. I have come to believe that the world of the miniaturist – Nella’s world – exists in a separate space in my writing mind, and I become a different writer when I tell her story. The house on the Herengracht, Nella’s spirit – these things seem to access something purer from my childhood self. And so it proved: finally, when the time was right, it was quite simple to slip into the stream of her life, and the lives of those around her. It was like meeting old friends, like walking into a familiar room.
My challenge was to honour the events of The Miniaturist, whilst making something new. In The House of Fortune, Nella is 37 years old, and whilst some things have stayed the same, much has changed. Everyone is older, though not all are necessarily wiser. There are still the same textures and culinary pleasures, and sorrow, secrets and possibility. The miniaturist still hovers. Life, for these characters, remains a mystery. But I think I have succeeded in bringing the tale on, although it was a long journey to do justice to Nella, and the next generation of the Brandt family: namely, Thea, her niece.
I hope that if you enjoyed The Miniaturist, then The House of Fortune will offer many delights. And if you are new to Nella and her chaotic, loving family, then you will also enjoy the novel I have created, whose world I must confess seems sometimes more real to me than the one in which we live.
It is not lost on me that I wrote a book about houses, and confinement, and yearnings to escape, during the several lockdowns we have all had to endure. I hope that the novel proves as enjoyable to read, as it was for me to return to the world that gave me my writing career.
Jessie Burton is the author of the Sunday Times number one and New York Times bestsellers The Miniaturist and The Muse, as well as the Sunday Times bestseller The Confession and the children’s books The Restless Girls and Medusa. In its year of publication The Miniaturist sold over a million copies worldwide, and in 2017 it was adapted into a major TV series for BBC One. Her novels have been translated into forty languages, and she is a regular essay writer for newspapers and magazines. She lives in London.