Atmospheric writing, interesting characters and glimpses of magic. If that interests you in book, you will find a great author in Jessie Burton!
Who is Jessie Burton?
As of 2019, Jessie Burton (1982) is the author of three novels; two historical fictions The Miniaturist and The Muse. And an illustrated, feminist fairytale The Restless Girls. Based on the Brothers Grimm’s The Twelve Dancing Princesses.
The Muse has been published in over 38 languages. All Burton’s books have been Sunday Times no 1. bestsellers and have won numerous prices.
“Every woman is the architect of her own fortune.”
I first came across Jessie Burton when I picked up The Miniaturist from my local library. I was browsing the shelves on a lazy afternoon and came across the story of Petronella Oortman, set in 17th century Amsterdam. The plot sounded intriguing to my ears; eighteen-year old Petronella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin her new life with her husband, Johannes Brandt. I love historical fiction so this immediately drew my attention. Then the back of the book also mentioned something about a dollhouse, and it’s characters being a bit too real… I got a scent of some magical realism, so of course, this book went home with me.
I started reading the book and was immediately hooked by Jessie Burton’s writing, historically well-researched and paving the way for many interesting characters. When you start reading the Miniaturist there’s immediately such a grant atmosphere that comes to life. And this is a quality I have found in all of her books.
Needless to say, the library copy was long forgotten after I ran to the bookstore to get my own copy a couple of days on.
Where to start?
With this author I think you could start absolutely anywhere. So instead I’d like to give you a little premise on all the books and why I enjoyed them. And then it’s up to you where you want to start. 🙂
The Miniaturist (2014)
As mentioned before, Burton’s first novel and my introduction to her work was The Miniaturist. I’m a lover of historical fiction and if you are too, you are definitely in good hands with this one.
Eighteen-year old Petronella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin her new life with her husband, Johannes Brandt. Although kind, Petronella’s husband is distant. He gifts his new wife a dollhouse, a cabinet-sized replica of their house. With a Miniaturist making the tiny inhabitants, who ring eerily true to life. And might have some influence on the actual household.
This book is super atmospheric, with glimpses of magic spread throughout. The Miniaturist was based on four years of research by Burton and the household comes to life before your eyes. Definitely a stunning debut, that left me hungry for more.
“You are sunlight through a window, which I stand in, warmed. My darling.”
The Muse (2016)
Jessie Burton’s second historical fiction The Muse lets us dive into a different time period. This time Burton takes us to London in the late 60’s, as Odelle Bastien is working as typist for the glamorous Marjorie Quick. Little does she know, Odelle climbing the stairs to the Skelton gallery, will lead to mysterious roads. When a lost painting with a secret history is delivered tot the gallery, we are taken back to uncover its history. Which will leads us to tales of love, of revolutionary times and secret ambitions in rural Spain in 1936.
“I’m not a genius. I just work hard.”
Again, Jessie Burton’s atmospheric writing and interesting characters are present. I loved the element of mystery in this one. Trying to piece together the whole story about this painting and how the two storylines connect. A quick but very entertaining read.
The Restless Girls (2018)
This illustrated children’s book is a new direction for Burton. And when this book was announced I pre-ordered it straightaway, and it didn’t disappoint!
The Restless Girls is about twelves princesses, who sadly lost their mother in a motor car accident. Desperate to keep his daughters save from any harm their father, the king, locks the 12 girls up in a room, costing them their freedom, lessons and possessions. But the girls, led by the oldest sister Frida will not bend to the will of their father. He can take away almost anything, except their imagination. And so begins the fight to live. Cue the golden foxes, silver forests, peacocks wearing waistcoats and so much more magic.
I adored it. The Restless Girls is a story of bravery, sisterhood and fighting for your rights. It’s absolutely magical. It might be a children’s because, but any adult will love this book all the same.
My favorite read
This is a hard one. Because I read these books as they came out. And every single year I read one of them, I considered them a favorite of the year. So I guess the answer to my favorite book of Jessie Burton, would be all of them?
All Burton’s books are different, but all superb in their own way. So instead I’d like to share a story of a favorite memory I had with The Miniaturist. Because memories related to books are the best!
I go to a bookmarket every year in Rotterdam, called ‘het boekenfestijn’. In 2018 I was browsing this market when I came upon the Dutch translation of The Miniaturist. Always happy to spot a favorite, despite already having a copy, I dashed towards it. In front of the book stack, two ladies are talking. And as I got closer, I could hear one convincing the other to pick up this book. I just couldn’t help myself and kinda butted into the conversation to help the lady recommend the book more haha. It led to a really fun conversation about books and why we loved the Miniaturist so much. When booklovers get together, a fun conversation is the consequence!
I think for that reason, and the fact that The Miniaturist was my introduction to this new favorite writer. It might be my favorite of the bunch. I have fond memories of reading the story and every conversation that followed about the book. But again, I truly enjoyed them and see myself giving them a reread when when the time is right!
“It can fill your day with sunshine or with storm. It will; conjure worlds from nowhere and make them real. It will open doors you didn’t even know existed; it will show you secrets that are yours alone. And the strange thing about imagination is that it can fly absolutely anywhere, even when your body stays in one place. I’ve seen it happen.”
Why should you pick up a Jessie Burton novel? Why wouldn’t you? She’s a brilliant writer who does her research and makes the time period and characters come to life in an amazing manner. I hope there will be many more Jessie Burton novels to come in the future, I’ll be sure to pick them up the moment they hit the store!
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Loved The Miniaturist! Really should read the other two as well, especially The Muse.
I really liked The Muse, it feels very different to the Miniaturist, but it’s a solid read so I definitely recommend it!