The Muse

The Muse       Jessie Burton       Pages: 445      Published: 2016

The book: Odelle Bastien emigrates from Trinidad to London in 1967 and is employed by the mysterious and glamorous Marjorie Quick at the Skelton gallery. A painting whose provenance is initially unknown arrives at the gallery for valuation.

In 1936, in rural Spain, Olive Schloss and her parents are living in a rented farmhouse. Her father, an art dealer, is always on the lookout for new artists he can promote and sell. He thinks he has found new talent in a local art teacher, Isaac Robles.

Is there a connection between the artist Isaac Robles and the painting at the Skelton gallery? Why did Marjorie Quick react so strangely to the painting? Read on to find out.

You might like it because: Burton is a wonderful storyteller. She effortlessly takes the reader back and forth between 1936 Spain and 1960s London. The storyline twists and turns and keeps you guessing till the end. I was disappointed when I finished the book; I wanted to continue reading about the characters.

What did other people say?
“A complex, vividly drawn tale. . . . The intricate way in which Burton pulls the two plots together is unexpected and impressive, a most original story about creative freedom, finding one’s voice, and the quest for artistic redemption.” – Publishers Weekly

The Muse . . . asks us to pay close attention, given the unexpected paths that wander variously through time, race, global politics and art history…[A] well crafted tale that draws you in, and in the end, respects you as a reader.” – Minneapolis Star Tribune

How quickly will you get into the book? The book got my attention from the beginning, but after page 129 I couldn’t put it down. My “to do” list for that Sunday never got done. I just read and read and read till I got to the end. So, make sure you don’t reach page 129 at 10pm on a weeknight!

You might not like it because: The story leaves the reader with unanswered questions about at least one character, which you may find frustrating.

What might you read next?
Read about the Spanish Civil War, which you see the beginning of in The Muse. Pick up a copy of Anthony Beevor’s The Battle For Spain.

Or, read another story where art is central to the plot, The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean.

Adele, one of the book’s main characters, was an aspiring writer from Trinidad, so read a book by a real female writer from Trinidad: Crick, Crack Monkey, by Merle Hodge.

© 2017