The House of Fortune Jessie Burton

‘The House of Fortune’ is the sequel to Jessie Burton’s ‘The Miniaturist’. Image: Jenna Solomon

Mystery and scandal make ‘The House of Fortune’ a page-turner

‘The House of Fortune’: Jessie Burton has finally written the sequel to her bestselling novel, The Miniaturist.

The House of Fortune Jessie Burton

‘The House of Fortune’ is the sequel to Jessie Burton’s ‘The Miniaturist’. Image: Jenna Solomon

Eight years after the triumphant launch of The Miniaturist, author Jessie Burton has released its sequel, The House of Fortune. Returning to Amsterdam, the Brandt family and heroine Nella, she also introduces a dazzling new protagonist, Thea. 

In a promotional video, Burton explains that Nella’s niece, Thea, was a major inspiration for the sequel.

“I wanted someone for Nella to spar with […] She has so much of that spirit Nella had when she was eighteen but she’s a different person and she behaves differently.” 

Jessie Burton

Nella and Thea both narrate The House of Fortune. While the story is not as glamorous as its title implies, it is full of secrets and high stakes which make it a really gripping read.

‘The House of Fortune’: Synopsis

Thea Brandt has been raised by her father Otto, her Aunt Nella and the family servant Cornelia. Theirs is a loving home, but also a crumbling one.

The Brandt family had once been among the most prosperous in Amsterdam but all that fell apart around the time of Thea’s birth. Scandal had engulfed the family and now, eighteen years later, they are selling their heirlooms to buy food.

Aunt Nella, the heroine of The Miniaturist, is determined to find Thea an eligible husband who can protect her and the family from financial ruin. Blindsided by this quest, she shuts down Otto’s reservations about how Thea, a penniless mixed-race child, will be received in Amsterdam’s upper class.

For her part, Thea is immune to the impending financial disaster. She’s nurturing a secret love affair with Walter, the set painter at the theatre. Her love for him gives her the courage to break rules on class relations and sexuality.

The liberation she feels with him is a balm to the Brandt house, where her relations refuse to tell her anything about her dead mother or uncle and the scandals they birthed.

When the family attends a ball, they encounter three people who promise fortune, yet bring the family into conflict with one another. 

Jacob is the wealthy suitor Aunt Nella has been searching for — but will Thea agree to marry a man she doesn’t love? Casper is an entrepreneurial botanist looking for investment. Otto is keen to work with him on Nella’s land — but will Nella agree to move back to her haunted childhood estate? 

Then there is the miniaturist, who, after 18 years, has returned to haunt the Brandt family. And this time, it’s not just Nella she’s after, but Thea as well.

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Is ‘The House of Fortune’ for you?

Although it’s set in Amsterdam in 1705, The House of Fortune feels like a very modern story. This is likely thanks to the timeless themes of money and love, and the conflict between them. 

Also, women in this historical setting are free to walk the city unescorted, something which was unusual in other cities at the time. The Brandt family’s relative poverty and history of scandal also mean that they aren’t stifled by servants (Cornelia is more of an aunt than a servant to Thea). 

Thea is also a woman of colour in a relatively privileged position, a rarity in both Western history and historical fiction that is validating to modern women of colour. So, while the family itself is unusual in Amsterdam, their isolation accords Thea a freedom that the contemporary reader can relate to. 

Yet, the historical setting is part of The House of Fortune’s appeal, particularly for lovers of historical fiction. From a South African perspective, it’s interesting to see how the ill-gotten spoils of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), which caused such oppression in our country, were enjoyed in the Netherlands. 

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‘The Miniaturist’ and ‘The House of Fortune’

The setting is much more muted than in The Miniaturist so don’t look for opulence and glamour here. There’s also a lot less business and politics. But if you’re anything like author Jessie Burton, you’ll probably want to read the sequel regardless. 

“I hadn’t really finished with Nella or she hadn’t really finished with me,” Burton said in the promotional video.

If you haven’t read The Miniaturist, I still recommend diving into The House of Fortune.

The two books are interlinked but not interdependent. I would even say that The House of Fortune has more mystery to it because so much time has passed since the scandals actually took place, and the reader experiences this through the eyes of Thea, who has been shielded from this past.

Fair warning, though, you will want to go back and read The Miniaturist (as I did). 

Note that there are racist incidents in the novel, though they are not a large focus, as well as descriptions of violent deaths and grief.

More about the author Jessie Burton

Jessie Burton is also the author of The Miniaturist, The Muse and The Confession. She has also written children’s books.

Her debut novel, The Miniaturist, sold over a million copies in its first year and won the National Book Awards Book of the Year Prize. She was blown away by the success of The Miniaturist and openly talks about the mental health crisis that followed and what she learned from it.

“Success is a mirage,” she told The Guardian, “and you have to do a lot of analysis to understand it is impossible to embody it.”

Burton grew up in London as an only child. She studied English and Spanish at Oxford, before turning to drama. She attempted to pursue an acting career, before working as a temp in PR and then becoming a full-time writer and essayist.

The House of Fortune is published by Pan Macmillan and retails for R348 at Exclusive Books.