What is it about?
The Muse tells the parallel stories of two creators; Odelle, a Caribbean writer living in 1960s London, and Olive, an aspiring Anglo-Austrian painter living in 1930s Spain, a country on the cusp of civil war. When Odelle lands a job as a typist at a posh London art gallery a chain of events is set off that will lead her to discover the astounding truth behind a mesmerisingly beautiful painting of a lion, a truth that even Odelle couldn’t write. Olive’s father – a prominent Austrian art dealer – thinks women shouldn’t paint, but his wily teenage daughter isn’t about to let that stop her from making her mark on the art world.
Is it any good?
When I heard that Jessie Burton was releasing her second book (the first being the incredible The Miniaturist), I was so excited I pre-ordered my copy and marked the release date on my calendar. Suffice to say, I went in with pretty high expectations – and Burton, with The Muse, has more than surpassed them. The language is so beautifully descriptive, her lexical choice so spot-on, that a paragraph is enough to make anyone with a love of language weep; reading The Muse is a cinematic and miraculous experience. The story switches back and forth between Odelle and Olive, something that is masterfully managed; instead of making things confusing, it keeps things fresh and exciting. The pieces slot together perfectly without ever being too predictable. I only have two criticisms of Jessie Burton’s sophomore novel; the speech is too flowery and clever to sound natural, and there is a bit of a lull in the middle that I wouldn’t calling boring, but I would call less exciting than the rest of the book. Overall, The Muse is an outstanding novel with deliciously feminist undertones that I would love to see become an instant classic.
How long did it take to read: ten days
This book tastes like: spearmint chewing gum