Since finishing her dazzling debut novel The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton has been caught up in a publicity whirlwind. Jaine Blackman reports

When Oxford graduate Jessie Burton finished her book The Miniaturist, she thought her job was done.

"I was unaware that this was merely the beginning.

"Over seventy events later, talking about the book, I can tell you that the view is astounding," says Jessie, 32, who is currently doing publicity in Milan for the novel which was named as Waterstone's Book of 2014.

But tiring – and surprising – as it may be, Jessie isn't tired of talking about her astonishing debut yet.

Which is just as well, as she's heading for a Chipping Norton book shop early next month.

"I am utterly thrilled to be appearing at Jaffe and Neale, particularly as they are such supporters of the Books Are My Bag campaign [see]," says Jessie.

"I think it's going to be a really fun night."

Jessie will be talking about writing her book and the whirlwind of events that came after its release.

Born in London, Jessie wanted to be a vet when she was "very little".

"I loved lambs in particular, kittens and ducklings. My rationale to become a vet was that I liked to cup these creatures in my hand, to keep them safe and warm, to feed them and listen to their quirky cheeps.

"In reality, it was Aslan and Mr Tumnus, Ratty and Mole, and Mathias from Redwall that I loved.

"Those animals in my hands and the ones in my head had made a seamless connection, animated by the power of being read to, and reading on my own."

As a teenager, she wanted to be an actress and after studying English and Spanish at Brasenose College, Oxford, she took a drama degree at Central School of Speech and Drama.

"As an adult, in between office jobs, I managed, in part, to fulfil that dream.

"I took such pleasure in it; it would be disingenuous to deny that a crowd laughing at your comedy is one of the greatest highs ever to be experienced," she says.

"But the other side – scrimping for auditions, repetitious office work – wasn't as freeing and fun as once it had been – when I was twenty-one and never going to age."

So while working as a PA she "secretly" wrote her novel.

In April 2013 The Miniaturist, was sold at an 11-publisher auction at the London Book Fair, and went on to sell in 29 other countries around the world. It was published by Picador in the UK and Holland in July 2014, and the USA in August 2014, with other translations to follow.

Radio 4 commissioned it as their Book at Bedtime in July 2014.

She is currently writing her second novel.

* Jessie Burton will be appearing at Jaffe & Neale, Chipping Norton, on Wednesday April 8 at 6.30pm. Call 01608 641033 or visit £5 with £3 off The Miniaturist.

Oxford Mail:
In Oslo, Jessie signed a bookshop wall to celebrate the publication of The Miniaturist in Norwegian. She drew Nella and Peebo too

Novel gives food for thought

Jessie Burton describes her novel:

"The Miniaturist is set in Amsterdam, 1686, and tells the story of two women's very different journeys to find a slice of freedom in a repressive, judgmental society. 

"There's a trial, a hidden love, a miniaturist who predicts the fate of her customers, a parakeet called Peebo and a plan to escape to the sea. 

"There is a lot of food – something I didn't think much of when I was writing it, but it's probably because I just love eating."