Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A SOCIALBOOKCO REVIEW: The Muse by Jessie Burton

Title: The Muse
Author: Jessie Burton
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Ecco
Release Date: July 26/2016
Acquired: Print copy sent by SocialBookCo
Goodreads: ADD
Purchase: SocialBookCo

The Sunday Times Number One Bestseller

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.


Before I even opened the first page of this book, before I was even onto the second paragraph of the synopsis, the feelings of comfort and familiarity I felt were immeasurably overwhelming. I myself was born and raised in the tiny West Indian country of Trinidad, and to know that the main character would possibly be sharing the blood I bear, was a gift that not many other authors have handed me. The Muse didn't only boast an intriguing promise of turbulent mystery, it already held my heart in its hands before it even began. Comprised of alternate perspectives, told almost 30 years apart, we find two talented young women, each forging a road that will eventually lead to an intersection of grand proportions. 

It's 1967, and Odelle Bastien is a hopeful resident of London. Having arrived 5 years prior from Trinidad with her best friend Cynthia, Odelle lends most of her thoughts to bigger dreams. She has little else to offer but her working experience at a women's retail shoe store, so is shocked when an application for a typist job at a well-known art gallery results in success. A few days into her new position, she meets Marjorie Quick, the woman behind the gallery's magic, and the human catalyst for the unraveling of both Odelle's sanity, and the maddening mystery of a newly acquired painting. 

 It is also 1936, during a tumultuously political time in Spain, and where a one Olive Schloss is at war with herself. A hidden talent, a rare opportunity, and the question of whether or not she discloses both of these things to her art dealing father, and rarely sober mother. When their home is visited by two locals looking for employment, Olive's secret becomes the pulsing background noise to the addition of newer, more dangerous secrets. In a whirlwind of fierce new friendships, sexual explorations, and random acts of revolution, Olive has to decide whether finding herself is worth the price she might pay for that discovery. 

 When these timelines collide, it is with a force of realization so intense that I can guarantee that your hands won't be able to flip through the remaining pages fast enough. Jessie Burton puts her pen to the paper with purpose, with a desire to not only have her readers immersed in the sights, sounds, and emotions of her creations, but I suspect, to also lay bare the fact that her entire heart belongs to the written word. The Muse was spectacularly researched, and there is now the MOST INTENSE need for me to know how she perfected Trinidadian slang and speech. It was on point, it was PERFECTION. So perfect that I was easily able to read the passages of dialogue in my native tongue, and almost BELIEVE that Burton was a Trinidadian herself. The harmonization of both a London and small-town Caribbean life was done expertly, with knowledge of each city being doled out in just the right amounts. 

The Muse doesn't really pick up speed until the last quarter, and for some, the scenic road leading there might not be up to their pacing or descriptive standards. But you need to understand, this narrative WAS its descriptions, it was its ability to use words to paint a technicolor picture. It was a narrative revolving around art, around a piece of artwork so important that using simple words and blunt back stories would not have done it justice. I want Burton to try her hand at modern day fairy tales, so soothing and yet equally heart-wrenching is her writing style. 

 There are so many ways that the conclusion of this novel could be considered open-ended, or unsatisfying. There were major questions that I wanted answers for. There were people I wanted a little more conversation with. But alas, everything must come to an end, and such with life, one cannot realistically expect neatly tied up ends. My emotional vat was already brimming over by the end of The Muse, I didn't need an ending that suited my needs, the story that brought me to the last page was enough to keep me sated. 

 Lastly, I didn't want to gush, but HERE I AM GUSHING: can we please stop the world and look at that STUNNINGLY GORGEOUS cover? I seriously advise everyone to purchase this book just to stare at and run your hands across that deliriously beautiful design work (the dust jacket is that creamy, melt in your hands material!). But don't stop there, step inside of this narrative, and if you do, please come back here and share what this book did to YOU.

Recommended for Fans of: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Ami McKay, Christina Baker Kline.



Jessie Burton studied at Oxford University and the Central School of Speech and Drama, where she appeared in productions of The House of Bernarda Alba, Othello, Play and Macbeth.

In April 2013 her first novel, The Miniaturist, was sold at an 11-publisher auction at the London Book Fair, and went on to sell in 29 other countries around the world. It was published by Picador in the UK and Holland in July 2014, and the USA in August 2014, with other translations to follow. Radio 4 commissioned it as their Book at Bedtime in July 2014.



A huge thank-you to SocialBookCo for 
providing a print copy of this book for review.

If you would like to purchase this book, please consider using the following link to do so: PURCHASE. By choosing SocialBookCo to purchase this book, you're guaranteed to find a copy at the least expensive price. Let SocialBookCo do the work for you!

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