You’ve no doubt heard about The Miniaturist – ex-CBC Creative-Writing course student Jessie Burton’s debut novel, which is published today. So you’ll probably know the story behind one of the most highly anticipated novels of the year: that it was the subject of an intense bidding war between 11 publishers; that Picador eventually acquired UK and Commonwealth rights for a six-figure sum; that it’s been sold to more than 30 countries. You may even have seen the Twitter teasers of its frankly beautiful cover.
The Miniaturist takes place in 17th-century Amsterdam, during the Dutch Golden Age. Young protagonist Nella is married off to a wealthy older merchant, the distant but soft-hearted Johannes, who presents her with a small replica of her household as a wedding gift. Nella employs a miniaturist to help furnish it, and the sinister artist crafts the petite furnishings and figurines with unnerving accuracy. To Nella’s horror, these creations begin to mirror their real-life counterparts in increasingly unsettling ways. The character of the miniaturist propels the reader on an intensely thrilling ride, and we see the story unfold through the eyes of a strong, spirited heroine intent on unravelling the secrets around her.
The book’s cover design is a work of art in itself. Katie Tooke, Design Manager for Picador, envisioned a picture that instantly reflected the contents of the novel. She commissioned the creation of a miniature house complete with hand-made furnishings, all of which were designed with the same precision that the fictional miniaturist used when creating Nella’s ornaments. The cover seems to spring to life instantly and, while looking at it, it’s almost as if the reader begins to view the dollhouse through Nella’s eyes. Katie writes on the Picador blog: ‘just like in the novel, the more you look the more you see.’
Jessie was part of the first student group on the inaugural Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing course back in 2011, tutored by Jake Arnott and CBC director Anna Davis. ‘The Miniaturist is an incredibly assured debut featuring some great writing and unforgettable characters,’ says Anna. ‘Jessie is immensely talented and worked so hard for this well-deserved success. I wish her the very best of luck, as do we all at Curtis Brown Creative.’
‘The course was a bit of a turning point for me,’ says Jessie. ‘I’d been in the hinterland of creativity for a while, temping as a PA in the City a lot, doing acting gigs whenever the hand of fate decided that would be, and writing under cover, and suddenly I was in a room with people who loved reading, writing, talking about books… it was wonderful. I loved the sessions where we talked over people’s extracts from their novels, I loved the opportunity to hear publishing advice from the horse’s mouth.’
You’ve heard a lot about the book, but now it’s finally time to read it. The Miniaturist hits the shelves today.
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (£12.99, Picador) is now available to buy. To purchase a copy, please click here.
For more information on Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing courses or to apply for a place, please click here.