What She Loves is a regular series where women we love tell us what *they* love. This week, author Jessie Burton shares her favourite things…
Jessie Burton has always gained “a great deal of pleasure” from aesthetics. As a teenager, she’d bring home fistfuls of paint swatches from trips to B&Q with her father, and once wrote to the producers of the TV series Changing Rooms to ask if they would make over her bedroom. As a 20-something temp in the City of London, she decided she should buy a plain black skirt, but found she “just couldn’t bring [herself] to do it”.
Now 38, the bestselling author’s Instagram feed is testament to her eye for jewel tones, bold patterns and vintage fashion and furniture. And her three novels – The Miniaturist, The Muse and The Confession – are packed with tactile, evocative descriptions of clothing, decor and trinkets, from gold-embossed wallpaper to pink silk blouses and jewellery piled high in ceramic dishes. “Beautiful objects and colours and patterns – I find them meditative but also uplifting and comforting,” she says.
Out now in paperback, The Confession flashes back and forth between 1980s Hollywood and Hampstead in 2004, as protagonist Rose attempts to find out why her mother disappeared when she was a baby. The settings are more modern than those of The Miniaturist, which unfolds in 17th century Amsterdam, and The Muse, which takes place in southern Spain in the 1930s. “I knew that I wanted to write about situations and challenges or dilemmas facing women in their mid-30s now,” Burton says. She adds that The Confession was inspired by “what my friends have gone through and what I’ve gone through. [It’s] a love letter to my friends.”
Burton is currently working on her fourth novel, although she can’t yet talk about it. Writing it has “been a bit of a battle,” she says – but she has started to feel like the end is in sight. “I say that now,” she laughs. “I’ll probably go back and be like ‘oh god, this is shit!’”
Below, Burton shares her current obsessions with Stylist...
Hair By Sam McKnight Cool Girl Barely There Texture Mist
“I just got my hair cut short. I haven’t had a crop like this for seven years, but when I sat in the hairdressers’ chair and it was revealed to me, I actually thought: yeah, this is the haircut I’m supposed to have. It feels good, but you do have the panic – like, ‘Oh god, how do I make sure I don’t look like a Lego man?’ This is very cool for a choppy look with your crop.”
Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers
“I’ve had about five people recommend this to me, which is quite rare. It’s set in 1957. The heroine, Jean, is on the brink of 40; she lives with her difficult mother and is a features writer at a local paper. One day this young woman contacts the paper to say her daughter is the result of a virgin birth, and Jean has to discover whether it’s a miracle or if the woman is mad. It’s a novel about the last throw of the dice, the last chance perhaps of finding a life of happiness when you’ve had a struggle. The writing is beautiful.
“This is also the first novel [Chambers] has written for 10 years, which I find really inspiring. I think there’s this discourse in our culture that you’ve got to have everything done in your first book … [But Chambers] has been away for 10 years and she’s come back with this absolute humdinger. It’s just so nice to read a book by someone who’s so confident with their talent. I’m glad she’s having this renaissance.”
Amazing Cosmetics Amazing Concealer
“I love Amazing Cosmetics. They’re an American brand, but you can get some shades [in the UK]. They claim this concealer is used by Hollywood make-up artists, but honestly, I have used so many concealers in my time, and this one genuinely is amazing.”
One Nine Eight Five Laurie Cushion
“One Nine Eight Five is an ethical, sustainable brand with a no-waste philosophy. They make their products using recycled materials and offcuts. This velvet cushion is on my wish list – I love their Dorsey cushion (£95) too.”
Fortnum & Mason Orange & Champagne Marmalade
“It’s a bit ridiculous, but I love this for a treat. My publishers bought me some in a hamper for the publication of my second novel and it’s so good – fizzy as well as tangy. Kind of like posh Haribo on bread, basically.”
Ouai Matte Pomade
“This is the other hair product I’m clinging to at the moment so I don’t look like a mushroom or a Mario Brother. It gives a very sweet, soft, shiny but texturised look.”
Petromax Poffertjes Pan
“I don’t cook, I do the washing up in our household, but my boyfriend bought me a cast-iron poffertjes pan for my birthday. It’s very sweet really. I love a pancake, and in The Miniaturist, my first novel, there’s a character called Cornelia who makes poffertjes, which are like mini Dutch pancakes. So Sam my boyfriend bought me a poffertjes pan and that’s why. It basically means that healthy breakfasts are out of the window.”
Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder
“This stuff is unreal. It doesn’t make its effects known immediately but within an hour it’s reacted with your skin’s sweat, or something. I don’t know what it is, but it sets beautifully and gives you this incredible glow.”
“This is so middle-class, but I recently discovered that Waitrose sells Grom sorbet. We bought some because it was on offer after a long bike ride, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I think I’ve just had a slice of Capri’. It’s amazing.”
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
“I love skincare. This isn’t cheap, but it lasts for ages, and you don’t need very much. It’s really improved the tone of my skin and evened it out.”
Monki Utility Style Jacket
“I got a lovely blue jacket in a secondhand shop in Amsterdam recently [Ed: you can’t shop Jessie’s exact jacket, but Monki’s version is similar]. I think it was probably a factory worker’s jacket, a bloke’s jacket. It’s very practical: it’s got nice pockets, roll-up sleeves, and it’s that lovely soft, very worn cotton. And it’s perfect for this kind of weather – the end of summer into slightly cooler days.”
The Confession by Jessie Burton (£8.99, Pan Macmillan) is out now in paperback
Photography: Lara Downie
Moya is a freelance journalist and writer from London, and a former editor at Stylist.