The Muse

The Muse

A Novel

Book - 2016
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July 1967, Mayfair, London--a painting left propped on the doorstep of the Skelton Gallery is discovered by Odelle Bastien, a Caribbean immigrant newly employed and in thrall with her enigmatic colleague, Marjorie Quick. The painting is rumoured to be the work of Isaac Robles, whose mysterious death at the burgeoning of his artistic powers has confounded the art world for decades. The excitement over the painting is only matched by the tension caused by the conflicting stories of its discovery. Odelle is unsure whom or what to believe as she finds herself drawn into a complex web of secrets and deceptions. Thirty years earlier, as Spain is on the brink of civil war, Olive Schloss, the daughter of a Viennese Jewish art dealer, follows her parents to Arazuelo, a village in the south rife with unrest. It is here Olive meets Maria Teresita, the young housekeeper, and Maria's half-brother Isaac Robles, newly returned from the Paris salons, his head full of revolution and dreams of being a painter as famous as Picasso. Both siblings are the illegitimate offspring of the local landowner and have nothing to lose when it comes to exploiting these new guests in their poverty-stricken town. They insinuate themselves into the family, helping to hide Olive's own artistic talents while Isaac plays at both painting and revolution. The consequences are devastating and echo into the decades to come.
Publisher: London :, Picador,, [2016]
ISBN: 9781443444989
Branch Call Number: FICTION BUR
Characteristics: 445 pages ; 23 cm


From the critics

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Oct 02, 2018

Love, love Jessie Burton's writing; she has the gift of a great storyteller.

If you get the chance, try immersion reading and enjoy the worldly offering of accents from England, Trinidad, and Spain.

My favorite character was Olive, and I so did not see her demise coming.

'The Muse' would make a great book group read.

Mar 11, 2018

I didn't find it easy to read at the beginning, because of the compositions of phrases, sentences. But, more or less, from the middle of the book, couldn't stop reading.
Although, I think there are some unnecessary characters.
Interleaving chapters about distant and not so distant past, slightly complicates the smoothness of reading, but gradually you're getting used to it.
There are many unexpected twists.

liljables Oct 31, 2017

The Muse takes us back and forth through time, between the 1930s and 1960s. We begin in '60s London, where Odelle Bastien is still struggling to find her place in this iconic city, five years after leaving Trinidad. When a new relationship collides with her promising new job, a mysterious piece of art surfaces and raises questions in Odelle's personal and professional life. Flashback to northern Spain in the 1930s, where Olive Schloss and her parents have escaped the bustle (and the rising tension that would lead to WWII) of London. Olive has a secret passion (and legitimate talent) for painting, but she knows her art dealer father will never take her seriously; her work takes on a new fervency thanks to the inspiration provided by the Spanish countryside and their Spanish caretaker, Isaac Robles.

I think Burton made great use of this back and forth narrative structure. I'll admit that I found the 1960s story line slightly more compelling - Odelle's struggle with racism, her growing distance from her only friend from home, and her mentor/mentee relationship with her supervisor, Marjorie Quick, kept me eagerly awaiting those chapters. I also appreciated the fact that, even though her relationship with Lawrie kicked off the main plot, the romance itself took a back-burner to the platonic and professional relationships in Odelle's life. The alternating chapters were intriguing in their own right, with the inscrutable Robles siblings keeping me guessing until the last page. I'd hesitate to call this novel historical fiction, but you could almost call it "art fiction" - the author paid great attention to detail both in describing the production of the fictional works in this book, and in recounting the real-life pieces that were produced in Spain during this period.

May 18, 2017

Wasn't sure I was going to like it at first, but I enjoyed how the two stories came together.
Highly recommend this book.

Apr 19, 2017

It was a pretty easy read. The prose had a nice effortless flow. Definitely a few steps up from a Harlequin. It was however, full of chic cliches ... sex, wealth, glamour, violence.

The ending was a little too 'pat'. I said to myself, "oh puleeze" not another stereotypical happy ever after inheritance filled ending.

Characters were not fleshed out enough ... not even aptly described from a physical standpoint. It was impossible to visualize people, situations, places etc. Considering it was about art, that's rather odd

MGBustillo Oct 07, 2016

Odelle, a London resident from Trinidad in 1967, tells one part of a story about a picture and the many lives it encompasses. The other part is the Schloss family in Spain during the outbreak of civil war 1936. Burton ties it all together with a picture and the woman who are changed by its creation.

abruzzo79 Sep 21, 2016

"I was - both by circumstance and nature -a migrant in this world, and my lived experience had long become a state of mind."

Sep 20, 2016

An artfully crafted story! Burton combined two time periods in an easy to follow way. Yet, the later day claiming of authorship of the painting, and who's who, became somewhat predictable. Although I think her "Miniaturist" bestseller was more unique The Muse still proved a good read.

Sep 14, 2016

I enjoyed The Miniaturist, but The Muse kept me completely enthralled. This is a beautifully written book with a carefully laid out plot, rich with elements of mystery, symbolism, and a sense of place in London and a small Spanish village.

Aug 22, 2016

Now this is a well-read, well-trained and accomplished author! Excellent plot development, description, and narrative technique. Her mastery plot weaving leads us through two stories developing on parallel lines through two different decades, but which are completely dependent on each other. Never do you lose sight of the focus, and she chooses the exact, precise moment to break and take up in the other decade, leaving you anxious to get back to your thread to carry on. Bravo! On my watch list for further novels.

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Apr 18, 2017

“...Is there ever such a thing as a whole story, or an artist's triumph, a right way to look through the glass? It all depends on where the light falls.”

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