Firstly let me state that I’m a huge fan of Jessie Burton’s writing.
I treated myself to her previous novel, The Miniaturist, on a trip to The National Gallery in Dublin. I felt it was a fitting location to purchase it and what a read!!
When the opportunity came up from TripFiction to read The Muse I was more than willing to accept.
Published by Picador I received my copy from Tripfiction in exchange for my honest review.
The Blurb on The Muse:
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 . . .
A dual-time story, The Muse, takes the reader on a trip back in time from the grey & cold streets of London in 1967 to the searing heat of Andalucia in 1936.
Odelle Bastien came to London in 1962 from Trinidad with an education and a dream.
‘I hadn’t scrapped with the boys to gain a first class English Literature Degree from the University of West Indies for nothing. I hadn’t endured a child’s pinch in a train carriage for nothing….I was not going to put shoes on sweaty Cinderellas for the rest of my life. I had bigger things I wanted to do, and I had done five years of waiting’
After endless job applications and refusals, Odelle finally receives the opportunity she is waiting for. Employed by the enigmatic Marjorie Quick of the Skelton Gallery, Odelle enters the world of art and artists.
Through a chance meeting at a party, Odelle finds herself immersed in a story of such historic significance, finding its roots in the Spanish civil war of the 1930s to New York and the famous Guggenheim family.
Harold and Sarah Schloss, with their daughter Olive, move to a finca in a remote part of Spain in 1936. Harold, an art dealer from Vienna, wary of the unrest in Europe, moves there for the safety of his family but also for his continuous search for THE painting, THE artist.
Unbeknownst to Harold, Olive has ambitions of her own. A talented painter, she keeps her ability secret afraid of the backlash and disapproval of her father. But when Olive paints, she brings the landscapes of the Spanish countryside alive
‘The sky was a boon of promise. The fields were a cornucopia of cereal crops and apples, olives and oranges. The orchard was so lush you might call it a jungle, and the empty fountain had turned into a living spring, the satyr’s canton now gushing full of water. The finca rose up like a welcoming palace, her father’s house with many mansions, it’s windows huge and open to her gaze. The brush strokes were loose, and colour dominated technical accuracy.’
In the midst of this, Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa arrive into the lives of the Schloss family.
Isaac is a dreamer, an artist, a teacher, a lover. He is everything Olive would wish for in a man. Teresa, on the other hand, is fearful, frightened, nervous.
A revolutionary, looking for the return of his country, Isaac is a man with a determination and a single-mindedness that is both brave and idealistic.
The Schloss family become embroiled in a war that isn’t theirs and unwittingly become entangled in a piece of history that resurfaces in a cold & bleak London in 1967.
The Muse is a beautiful read for it’s descriptions, it’s storyline, it’s sense of place. When I read a book I want to taken away from my daily life. I want to imagine myself walking with the characters in the book. I want to escape,
The Muse, by Jesse Burton, did all that for me. I really hope you pick up a copy for yourself and bring a little escapism into your life.
In the meantime, please take a look at http://www.tripfiction.com/
There you will find advice on the best books to read for wherever you want to go. TripFiction lets you see a location through an author’s eyes.
Works of fiction generate a feel for, and empathy with, a location that it quite different to that obtained through conventional travel guides. Literature – modern or historical – can help us absorb atmosphere and context in a way that no other written word finds possible.