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Success story Jessie Burton


Jessie BurtonJessie Burton's road to success is interesting because it's only just happened, following the publication of her first novel The Miniaturist in July. Having spent four years writing the book she was quite overwhelmed by its reception, the competition to represent her and then the eleven-publisher auction at the 2013 London Book Fair.

Previously an actor (which must come close to writing in terms of the difficulty of achieving success in your work), Burton supported herself through that four years mostly through temping in the City. Having the right agent (Juliet Mushens) undoubtedly helped, but Burton also has a kind of confidence which makes a big difference and a real humdinger of an original idea.

This was to use the wonderful dolls' house in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and to weave a story around its owner, Petronella Oortmann (Nella Brandt). It was this idea which sold the book but Burton's storytelling and lively characters which make it work. Is there a saying that everyone loves a dolls' house? Probably not, but there should be, because they do.

The original dolls' house is quite spectacular, I know because I saw it last weekend, and centring the book around it must have compelled a strong positive reaction from the publishers, by definition world-weary at a big book fair. But why did I want to see the original? Because of the book, which I'd just started reading. Art imitating Life.

The dolls' house does feature largely in the book, but not so much in the remarkable story of its success, which will in due course extend to 31 translated editions in addition to the major bestselling reception it has had in the UK and the US. There's also to be a film and one can envisage a tasteful bit of film-making with some lovely parts and wonderful settings from the Dutch Golden Age.

In the meantime the author is engaged in writing her second novel, which could be quite difficult in the middle of all this excitement.

Jessie Burton's website

Jessie Burton's blog


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List price: £12.99
Publisher: Picador
Sales rank: 9,436