Miniaturist novel named Waterstones book of 2014

By Tim Masters
Arts and entertainment correspondent, BBC News

image copyrightPA
image captionBurton's debut novel was published in July and has become a bestseller

A debut novel inspired by a dollhouse in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum has been named Waterstones Book of the Year.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is the story of a young bride in a wealthy quarter of 17th Century Amsterdam.

As a wedding gift she is given a miniature replica of her own house whose contents seem to mirror real life.

Actress turned writer Burton, 31, said her latest achievement was "a complete honour".

"I'm so delighted that they picked me," she told the BBC. "I feel I must have made some pact with the devil and he's coming to get my soul at some point."

Published in July 2014, The Miniaturist is the best-selling literary debut hardback of the decade so far.

Burton also won the new writer of the year prize at the National Book Awards last week.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionBurton was named new writer of the year at the National Book Awards last month

The Oxford graduate wrote the book over four years while working as an actress and as a PA in a City firm. The idea for the novel was sparked by a holiday in Amsterdam in 2009.

In the Rijksmuseum she saw a dollhouse that belonged to Petronella Oortman, the wife of a 17th Century silk merchant. Commissioned in 1686, it was a exact copy of their real home

"I was very fascinated by this house and I stood in front of it for a lot longer than anybody else," said Burton.

'Vivid excitement'

"The thing that caught my attention was the fact that she spent as much money on it as her real house. I thought: 'Why?'"

The book was the subject of a publishers' bidding war in April 2013 at the London Book Fair.

Waterstones' managing director James Daunt called the book "a first novel of vivid excitement" and said it "richly deserved its stunning success".

Burton, who has appeared on stage at the National Theatre and had a role in BBC children's series The Wild House, said it was "a thrill, a pleasure and a true honour" to be named this year's winner.

"It's all any writer could wish for," she continued. "I will always be grateful for this incredible award."

The eight-strong Waterstones shortlist included Richard Flanagan's Man Booker Prize-winning novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, and Helen Macdonald's Samuel Johnson Prize winner, H is for Hawk.

Last year's winner was John Williams' Stoner, a US novel first published in 1965 that became an unlikely bestseller in 2013.

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