(19/2/2017) 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 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 . . .

To be completely honest, I wasn’t feeling this book right off the bat.

I’ve read Jessis Burton’s debut novel, The Miniaturist, and felt the same. She’s a slow burner, but days, even weeks after finishing The Miniaturist, I found myself thinking about it, longing to read something so beautiful again, something I can delve into and lose myself. Her writing is beautiful and her character relationships complex, and this is definitely something she brings to her second novel, The Muse.

But, like I said, it was a slow start. I wasn’t feeling the characters, or the slow introduction of the plot, but then it got going, the pace picking up and the stakes being raised.

About the forst 60-70% of this book, I was sure I was going to give it 4 out of 5 stars. Positive on it. And then as the ending unravelled and I couldn’t put the book down, I knew I had to bump that up to 5.

I can kind of see where some reviewers are coming from, calling it sluggish and saying that they didn’t finish it. It can feel like an effort to put the work into to read a book like this. I can’t quite describe what I mean by that, but to me at least it makes sense. You have to soft through a lot of story, not all of which feels necessary or which is the high point of the novel. But once you do, and for this book, it was definitely the ending which held it for me, it’s such a rewarding feeling to have completed this story and come full story to understanding all the characters motivations, dreams, and how every detail and thread comes together.

I don’t want to say much about the plot, you can find a blurb above and I don’t want to spoil the bit that I found the best, but I would highly recommend you to push the beginning of this book, and hopefully you’ll come out the end smiling like I did.

Katie

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