BOOK REVIEW: The Muse by Jessie Burton

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 scene 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 comes artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa, who immediately insinuate themselves into the Schloss family, with explosive and devastating consequences...

Publisher: Picador
Pages: 441

Jessie Burton received high acclaim for her first book, The Miniaturist which sadly I have not had chance to read yet. I loved the sound of The Muse though and I'm so glad I had it as a Christmas present as I loved it.
Odelle Bastien begins working at The Skelton gallery in London; she is very excited as this is the best job she has found since arriving in London from Trinidad. Her boss is Marjorie Quick, a slightly mysterious and enigmatic character. Marjorie takes Odelle under her wing; Odelle is flattered and slightly in awe of this woman; she has no idea that Quick will alter the path of her future and ultimately who she becomes. Odelle meets a man, Lawrie at a party and he says he was left a painting from his mother which he'd like to know more about. He brings it to the Skelton and Pandora's Box is thrown wide open. Lawrie's painting takes the story back to 1936 and rural Spain where the Schloss family are living. Olive is the daughter of a very famous art dealer but he has no idea that Olive paints and is actually hugely talented. Isaac and Teresa Robles come into their lives and very quickly turn their world upside down. Jessie Burton flits between these two time periods, weaving her story; answering some questions but raising others.
The Muse is beautifully written, Burton creates an air of mystery and suspense from the first page; I was immediately captivated by the characters and the worlds she created.
It was interesting that the majority of lead characters were female, all excelling in their own ways in times when that was rarely heard of. The relationship between Odelle and Majorie Quick was intense and I knew that something special would come of it. Olive Schloss is quite a tragic character; hiding her talent from her own family as she knows that her father would not approve. The relationships she has with those around her are either strained or false.
The book is very concerned with deception and the different areas of life it can infiltrate. Every character in this book is hiding something, some things I worked out along the way but Jessie Burton saves a few surprises for the very end.
I cannot recommend this book enough, it felt like a real treat with beautiful writing, complex characters and a plot full of suspense and intrigue.


jessicabookworm said...

Great to hear you enjoyed this so much. My mum and I loved The Miniaturist and we're excited to read this new one too :-)

Anonymous said...

Like you I haven't read her first but heard so much about it. I picked this one up in Waterstones with some Christmas money but haven't got round to it yet.

BOOK REVIEW: Our Kind of Cruelty by Amarinta Hall

Mike understands that most of us travel through the world as one half of a whole, desperately searching for that missing person to make us...