written by Jessy Burton, published by Harper Collins Publishers
genre historical novel, 337 pages
The first time this book caught my attention was at a Waterstones bookstore in London, last November. My boyfriend and I are both booklovers and when we came across a Waterstones at Trafalgar Square, we both agreed that checking out their book collection would make a nice break from the cold and windy London-weather. It turned out to be an excellent shelter.
Like with many books, my curiousity got triggered by its cover design; a simple, but refined symmetric illustration, combining beautiful colors with symbolic ornaments. Also Jessie Burton’s international bestselling debut novel ‘The Miniaturist’ was being displayed, but The Muse caught my attention first.
The story in short
The story tells about the lives of two women living in different timezones and different countries. Starting off in London in 1967, we meet Odelle Bastien. Odelle’s a young Trinidadian girl that immigrated to London 5 years earlier, harboring high expectations for starting a new life. Being a black girl in the sixties, it turns out to be a lot harder than expected for Odelle to find a decent job suitable for her writing capabilities. But when Mrs. Marjorie Quick of The Skelton Institute chooses Odelle as the art gallery’s new typist, Odelle’s life course starts changing rapidly.
The story also takes us to a rural Spanish town called Arazuela in 1936. There we get to know Olive Schloss, a wealthy girl from London that’s been traveling and moving all over the world with her parents, to finally end up in this town in Spain. Quickly the poor brother and sister Isaac and Theresa Robles find their way into the Schloss’s household. When Sara’s father, a renowned art dealer, lays eye’s on Isaac’s paintings and starts selling them in Paris, the impact this will cause on their lives cannot be overseen.
Both storylines finally get connected with the rediscovery of a famous lost masterpiece by the mysterious Spanish painter Isaac Robles. The painting not only stirs up the London art scene in the 60’s, but has effected the lives of all the women we met throughout the story. It turns out to be a painting of many names and a secret history.
Why you should read this book
The Muse is a book I can highly recommend to everyone who appreciates historical novels with a bit of a detective feel to it. This is one of those books you simply can’t put aside, you have to keep reading until the puzzle is complete. I loved the historic contexts of this story, taking place in two very different and both really interesting times and places. On top of that there’s this question, whether in the end the truth will be revealed or not.
Having loved reading The Muse so very much, makes me even more curious for the Miniaturist. So I can promise you a book review of that novel will also follow soon.