... that rare, double-headed beast. It is a sequel to the author's first book, The Miniaturist (2014), an acclaimed work of historical fiction which enchanted legions of readers. But it is also a standalone novel that can be enjoyed by those who have not yet immersed themselves in the unique world of that exquisite debut. Burton returns to her main setting and brings back several characters, but the most welcome recurring feature is her skilled storytelling ... Once again, the Dutch setting is masterfully evoked, both indoors and out, and the Brandts and their secrets are shrewdly depicted. If the book lacks the suspense and mystique of its predecessor, it more than compensates with its drama, which includes a twist that destabilizes Thea and throws the unsuspecting reader ... would be an even rarer beast if it were superior to The Miniaturist. It isn't, but rather than a pale imitation of that novel, it is a worthy and frequently captivating companion piece.
The House of Fortune is a worthy sequel, mature and thoughtful...There’s something comforting about its circularity...The plot would function without the reappearance of the miniaturist herself (she takes up scant page space, and we learn nothing new about her), but her little tokens unify the stories of Thea and Nella, invoking the past while hinting at the future...Hidebound Nella needs to break from convention; hotheaded Thea needs a greater sense of continuity: both must look backwards to move forward...There’s a fine line between comfort and stagnation, Burton warns us...As the inscription on Marin’s tomb proclaims, 'Things can change,' and building a new life may include embracing what we always had...We can return home, Burton tells us; whatever our age, we can 'begin again with a seedling.'
That atmosphere of severity and opulence seems to have fed through to Burton’s prose at a formal level. Her writing is both removed and dignified, although this coldness is counteracted by an almost obsessive intimacy with the physical world. Objects illuminate the rooms around them; she is brilliant on the way that dress and decoration speak loudly of the personality and aspirations of those who possess them ... Thea is wilder and more wilful than Nella ever was and, despite the financial troubles that dog her family, this is a book with a warmer heart than the slightly chilly original. The titular Miniaturist of Burton’s debut makes a return here, leaving gifts that point to a supernatural ability to see past facades to deeper truths – a conceit that always seemed to gesture towards the power of the author ... Burton has done that rare thing, following up a successful debut with a novel that is superior in both style and substance. What’s cheering is that, after a host of adventures, Thea and Nella are left staring out on a new world, suggesting there is more to be told of this boldly unconventional Dutch family.
Burton resurrects the shadowy miniaturist from the earlier novel. Her exquisitely wrought replicas, deposited with key characters at key moments, leave open the question of whether she’s a prophet or just really good at reading the doom in the room ... Sequels by their nature call up comparisons, and it is fair to say that The House of Fortune is a less compelling work than its predecessor...We may notice that Burton keeps pounding the same keys ... But Burton still has a way of drawing us into her world — she’s particularly adept at navigating between different points of view — and of giving us Old Amsterdam in all its luxurious severity ... And, as with the previous volume, Burton excels in the wrapping up.
Some may feel that to point out that The House of Fortune is a bad novel is mean-spirited and unsporting...Mindless fodder is supposed to be this bad, they will say...There is, though, something cynical about the manner in which novels such as Burton’s are pressed on the public — marketed in the lucrative intersection of commercial and literary fiction, their potboiler credentials laundered by a superficially researched historical setting and overripe prose...At the sentence level, The House of Fortune is a disaster zone of overwriting...This is a book that deals not only in clichés of expression, but clichés of structure and thought too...The characters’ 21st-century sensibilities are ill adapted to their historical setting...As with homosexuality in The Miniaturist, the protagonists’ unaccountably progressive attitudes about race strike the reader as frivolous anachronism in the service of lazily sympathetic characterisation.
Throughout The House of Fortune, Burton beautifully evokes golden-age Amsterdam. It’s as though she has seamlessly incorporated aspects of memorable Dutch still lifes, portraits and landscape paintings into the narrative. If The House of Fortune doesn’t feature quite the same level of sinister gothic atmosphere and suspenseful plotting as The Miniaturist, it’s still a satisfying family drama.
... deals with its antecedent with grace, allowing for its larger shade ... beautifully described: it’s a book that shows the changes of the year and how, despite any wealth they may have had, the eighteenth-century citizens of Amsterdam ate seasonally and were amazed by a pineapple or a mango. These fruits hold a glamour of sorts, but also the promise of something beyond their stuffy society. There is a magic in The House of Fortune, glimpsed in these fruits and the miniatures that are given to Thea ... Indeed, many of the characters in The House of Fortune are given a depth and complexity of emotion that Burton’s original book was criticised for lacking ... a muted sequel, but this seems fitting given the novel and the characters that it follows. It shows the reader what truly happened in the aftermath of the big first book’s ending, even if it wasn’t the happiest. Whilst we, as readers, would like ends tied, each character married off and living out their days happily, The House of Fortune, both as a sequel and a book in its own right, refuses to offer such neatness.
Burton’s The Miniaturist (2014) was an international bestseller with a subsequent TV miniseries, and this keenly awaited sequel should more than fulfill expectations. Exhibiting the same finely etched atmosphere of historic Amsterdam, it deepens characterizations by bringing the action forward while illuminating the childhood of the original protagonist, Nella ... With an artistic eye, Burton explores women’s lives, socioeconomic concerns, and the ways they intersect. This tale has few of the first novel’s supernatural elements, instead emphasizing the effect of the miniaturist’s creations. Both heroines grow and change in this smartly written historical novel about family relationships and recognizing truth.
Fans of Burton’s best-selling novel The Miniaturist will find this a worthy and satisfying sequel ... A beautifully written and wholly engrossing tale. New readers will be delighted that they can enjoy this book without having read the first one, but they’ll probably seek it out to spend a bit more time in Burton’s magical Amsterdam.
Burton returns with a captivating standalone companion to 2014’s The Miniaturist...In 1705 Amsterdam, 18-year-old Thea Brandt lives in a cold mansion with her father, Otto, a Black man who was formerly enslaved; her aunt Nella; and her elderly nursemaid and cook Cornelia...Throughout, the mysterious 'miniaturist' of the previous book surreptitiously delivers warnings in the form of detailed figurines on Thea’s doorstep, each with its own eerie significance and seeming supernatural power, just as she had done years ago with Nella...While the ending feels a little abrupt, the vibrant period detail, the characters’ vibrant inner lives, and Thea’s fulfilling journey to maturity make for a winning combination...Readers will relish the return of Nella and her world.
Despite this welter of intrigues, there’s a static feel to the novel’s first half, scarcely alleviated by the introduction of Jacob van Loos, a wealthy possible suitor for Thea who might be the solution to the family’s financial distress. While two dramatic turning points eventually jolt the narrative forward, the story’s plotting is limited and its mood dominated by introspection, reminiscence, and unhappiness. Among a cast of isolated characters, it falls to Nella to act as the lynchpin once again, enabling a resolution which arrives sweetly but without answers to many of the preceding questions ... The magic is missing in this intense yet less-well-consolidated return trip.