Today’s review is on The Muse by Jessie Burton.
Two years ago, one of my favourite books of the year was The Miniaturist by debut author Jessie Burton.
It was equal parts atmospheric, mysterious, and historical. I really couldn’t recommend the book to enough people!
When I found out that Burtons sophomore novel was going to bookend World War II it was immediately pushed to the top of my to-read pile.
Did The Muse live up to my Burton expectations? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.
A picture hides a thousand words . . .
On a hot July day in 1967, Odelle Bastien climbs the stone steps of the Skelton gallery in London, knowing that her life is about to change forever. Having struggled to find her place in the city since she arrived from Trinidad five years ago, she has been offered a job as a typist under the tutelage of the glamorous and enigmatic Marjorie Quick. But though Quick takes Odelle into her confidence, and unlocks a potential she didn’t know she had, she remains a mystery – no more so than when a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.
The truth about the painting lies in 1936 and a large house in rural Spain, where Olive Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer, is harbouring ambitions of her own. Into this fragile paradise come artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa, who immediately insinuate themselves into the Schloss family, with explosive and devastating consequences…
I don’t know if I have every said this in a review, but I am not a huge fan of dual timelines. They are very confusing and very rarely done in a way that makes them worth it, and yet Burton actually achieves somewhat of a cohesive story.
The Muse is set in both 1967 London and 1936 Spain, with Burton’s research into the periods being incredibly prominent. While I am a sucker for World War II, I could appreciate Burton’s exploration of prewar Spain and postwar London.
I also enjoyed Burton’s use of duality when it came to her characters. On one hand Burton explored the appreciation on art with the character of Odelle Bastien, a typist and writer at the Skelton gallery. Through out the novel Odelle grows both in herself as a lover of art and as a creator of art through words. On the other hand Olive Schloss is confident in her role as the creator of art, and while her sex does get in the way which leads to an interesting plot avenue, she never strays from her belief in the need to inspire others.
My only complain with Burton’s The Muse, comes in the pacing of the novel. When compared to Burton’s other work, The Miniaturist, The Muse is paced rather slowly. However, in the slow burn, I felt Burton was able to prepare the reader for the twists and turns that laid ahead.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.