Blurb from Goodreads:
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 . . .
Seductive, exhilarating and suspenseful, The Muse is an unforgettable novel about aspiration and identity, love and obsession, authenticity and deception – a masterpiece from Jessie Burton, the million-copy bestselling author of The Miniaturist.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: in the end, a piece of art only succeeds when its creator – to paraphrase Olive Schloss – possesses the belief that brings it into being.
Oh Saints! This book knows how to make me furious with its twists! The clues were there and I was confident I knew what’s going on and what’s coming. But when everything was laid bare in front of my eyes, this author still managed to draw some strong emotions out of me. There are novels wherein you dread the death of main characters. Here, I got so mad with the twist. Mad to the point that I wish for a painful death for a character or two.
The Muse is a riveting story about art and creativity, love and loss, oppression and resistance, loyalty and betrayals, and secrets… lots of them. I loved this book in a hundred different ways starting with that eye-catching cover that demands attention. And wonderfully, the beauty of it doesn’t end with the cover as it matches what is inside.
My life was a beanstalk and I was Jack, and the foliage was shooting up and up, abundant, impressive, at such speed that I could barely cling on.
The story crosses back and forth from 1936 Spain and 1967 London, following the lives of two different women, Olive and Odelle. I enjoyed being in both worlds. But I may have favored Olive’s time in Spain a little, simply because there’s a lot of things going on in there. There’s the ongoing war that puts everybody in danger, there’s the secrets that envelopes the Schloss family, and there’s the story of Olive being an extraordinarily talented painter who couldn’t put her name in her paintings because she’s a woman.
It is easy to admire and get lost in Jessie Burton’s world because she built a detailed and immersing one. Her characters are perfectly fleshed-out, her plot was well-thought and intricately done, and everything is skillfully delivered with rich historic feel. And I love how the story moves from one timeframe to another without being confusing. Jessie Burton knows how to nail this genre and I’ll definitely watch out for her future works.