It wasn’t until an event at a literature festival in 2019 that she realized she would have to return to the richly sensory Dutch world she had created. “For the first time in a long time I was asked to discuss The Miniaturist and after we left the stage the interviewer told me that I would come to life in a different way discussing the book; that I had been ‘impregnated with something’. I told my agent that I was ready to go back to Nella. And when I started thinking about her [and the book’s other characters] again, it was like taking old childhood toys out of a box. There were so many tender bonds and so many questions.
While The Miniaturist was driven by the tension between the innocent but tenacious young Nella and her overbearing but vulnerable sister-in-law Marin, The House of Fortune focuses on the thrill between Nella’s survivalist mentality and her niece Thea’s idealism. “I knew baby Thea would grow up to have her own story,” Burton says. “The dialogue between women of different generations has been a recurring theme in all my books. I was curious to know what they would find to teach each other.
“Nella is an older woman whose sexual appetite has not been satisfied. And Thea is a younger woman who experiences sexual pleasure and romantic love. that Thea has a happy life, and neither of them have the answers.
As the only child of a “lively, sometimes embarrassing” mother, Burton understands the challenges of this dynamic. She tells me her mother – an avid DIYer – “always wore bright colors and had a laugh you can hear on the streets. She sometimes sprayed polka dot dye in her white blonde hair and often talked to strangers.
“We always had very direct conversations,” she adds. “And that must feed the energy of my fiction. His house – the house of my childhood – burned down while I was writing La Maison de la Fortune.
Fortunately, the Sylvanian Families Toy Village – Burton’s favorite childhood toy and a partial inspiration for the dollhouse at the heart of The Miniaturist – survived the fire. But it’s ironic that the witch doctor had his childhood home in Wimbledon destroyed by the glare of a homemade magnifying glass, which focused the sun’s rays onto a flammable curtain.
Burton says the playful control of the narrative she developed with her toys fueled her early ambition to become an actor. After Oxford, she studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama, London, but never got the roles she craved. She laughs at her role as an extra in the television adaptation of The Miniaturist: “I was in the scene at the goldsmiths’ ball. I loved to dress up and walk around in a world of my invention. But when I watched the finished episode, I saw that only the tip of my nose was doing the final edit. Quite humbling to realize that would be the pinnacle of my acting career.
His experience of watching The Miniaturist sets dismantled is reflected in The House of Fortune. “At the end of the 17th century, the VOC [Dutch East India Company] was in decline,” says Burton. “Nella’s fortune was built on this trade and at the beginning of this book we see her big mansion emptying out. It’s like a film set going out.
His characters all react differently to economic decline. Nella wants to cling to the old class structure and marry Thea off to a wealthy aristocrat, but Thea has fallen in love with a handsome set painter at the local theater.
Because “Thea is a woman with dual heritage, and I am not,” Burton was grateful for the comments from a sensitive reader. “I wanted readers to seek out Thea, and the comments from our sensitive readers have been very enlightening. She said, ‘Thea lives in Amsterdam in the winter and if you think her hair isn’t going to be curly, you’re wrong!’ I had scenes where she was about to leave the house in five minutes and my SR said it would have taken her much longer to do her hair, so I watched many tutorials online on how to do it. way to treat Afro-Caribbean hair.
As a judge for this year’s Costa Book Prize, Burton says she “feels shocked, angry [and] really sad” about the news earlier this month that the award is being removed.
“I know there are arguments against these awards. But I think the Costa was so good and powerful because he was still literary, but he fostered an enjoyable reading experience. So many past winners have said the award has given them a huge boost and that readers trust it to pick good reads.
In the meantime, Burton isn’t ruling out the possibility of her returning to Nella for the third time.
“My connection to Nella and her world is very deep,” she says. “I signed a contract to write two more children’s books and I want to spend time with my son. But I can’t let go of Nella. She rolls her eyes. “I imagine myself at 65 thinking, ‘Until then, Nella, let’s see what you’re doing now…'”
‘The House of Fortune’ will be released by Picador on July 7