The Muse

The Muse

5.0 1
by Jessie Burton

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From the #1 internationally bestselling author of The Miniaturist comes a captivating and brilliantly realized story of two young women—a Caribbean immigrant in 1960s London, and a bohemian woman in 1930s Spain—and the powerful mystery that ties them together.

England, 1967. Odelle Bastien is a Caribbean émigré trying to make her way


From the #1 internationally bestselling author of The Miniaturist comes a captivating and brilliantly realized story of two young women—a Caribbean immigrant in 1960s London, and a bohemian woman in 1930s Spain—and the powerful mystery that ties them together.

England, 1967. Odelle Bastien is a Caribbean émigré trying to make her way in London. When she starts working at the prestigious Skelton Institute of Art, she discovers a painting rumored to be the work of Isaac Robles, a young artist of immense talent and vision whose mysterious death has confounded the art world for decades. The excitement over the painting is matched by the intrigue around the conflicting stories of its discovery. Drawn into a complex web of secrets and deceptions, Odelle does not know what to believe or who she can trust, including her mesmerizing colleague, Marjorie Quick.

Spain, 1936. Olive Schloss, the daughter of a Viennese Jewish art dealer and an English heiress, follows her parents to Arazuelo, a poor, restless village on the southern coast. She grows close to Teresa, a young housekeeper, and Teresa’s half-brother, Isaac Robles, an idealistic and ambitious painter newly returned from the Barcelona salons. A dilettante buoyed by the revolutionary fervor that will soon erupt into civil war, Isaac dreams of being a painter as famous as his countryman Picasso.

Raised in poverty, these illegitimate children of the local landowner revel in exploiting the wealthy Anglo-Austrians. Insinuating themselves into the Schloss family’s lives, Teresa and Isaac help Olive conceal her artistic talents with devastating consequences that will echo into the decades to come.

Rendered in exquisite detail, The Muse is a passionate and enthralling tale of desire, ambition, and the ways in which the tides of history inevitably shape and define our lives.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Burton’s second novel (following The Miniaturist) is a complex, vividly drawn tale centering on a mysterious painting from 1930s Spain brought to a London art institute in 1967. The author brings together two striking story lines—one involving Trinidad-born Odelle Bastien, who works in late ’60s London at a posh art institute where she becomes the protégé of an eccentric office manager, Marjorie Quick, while adjusting to life in a new country. The other thread centers on Olive Schloss, a young Viennese woman whose family settles in a mansion in Spain in 1936. Olive’s aspirations to be a painter are quashed by her father’s misogynistic views toward women artists. Her life is overturned by the arrival of Isaac and Theresa Robles, local siblings who come to work at the mansion; he is a passionate revolutionary and artist, and she is a maid, but also a lost teenager looking for connection. The intricate way in which Burton pulls the two plots together is unexpected and impressive, a most original story about creative freedom, finding one’s voice, and the quest for artistic redemption. (July)
Library Journal
In Burton's second novel (after The Miniaturist), Odelle, an aspiring Trinidadian poet leading a new life in Britain, meets Lawrie at a wedding. Lawrie has recently inherited a painting from his mother, and that artwork is at the center of a story that moves from 1960s London to a tiny Spanish village in 1936 where a Viennese Jewish art dealer, his troubled English wife, and their talented daughter live amid growing political unrest and become involved with a local family. The threads of issues such as family secrets, racial and gender prejudice, and the nature of talent are woven throughout the narrative, which moves among time periods seamlessly, peeling away the layers to find the truth of the painting and its creator. VERDICT Historical fiction lovers as well as fans of B.A. Shapiro's The Muralist and The Art Forger will appreciate the intriguing characters, skillful writing, and evocative atmosphere of two very different eras. Readers who enjoyed Burton's debut won't be disappointed. [See Prepub Alert, 1/11/16.]—Terry Lucas, Shelter Island P.L., NY
Kirkus Reviews
A thrilling painting with a mysterious provenance connects two bold young women, one in Civil War Spain, the other in mid-1960s England. British writer Burton (The Miniaturist, 2014) won multiple awards for her first book, an unusual historical novel set in 17th-century Amsterdam, and returns to themes of intrigue, creativity, and female empowerment in her second. The narrator of the 1967 storyline is Odelle Bastien, a Trinidadian immigrant and aspiring writer trying to find her way in London, where racism is more common than job opportunities for bright young black women. But life picks up after Odelle finds work at the Skelton Institute of Art and also meets Lawrie Scott, whose mother recently died, leaving him an unusual painting signed with the initials I.R. In the parallel 1936 storyline, the setting is Andalusia, where the wealthy, art-dealing Schloss family, originally from Vienna, has settled temporarily. Nineteen-year-old Olive Schloss falls in love with local artist Isaac Robles, whose watchful half sister, Teresa, acts as housekeeper to the Schlosses. Olive paints too, secretly but brilliantly, and persuades Isaac to present her work as his, in order to be taken seriously. But their affections are mismatched and become even more strained as "Isaac's" paintings are bought by Peggy Guggenheim and the country's political mood darkens. This split-screen narration, though intriguingly detailed, lacks the freshness and persuasive emotional intensity of The Miniaturist, and its central premise—Olive's refusal to own her groundbreaking work—is wobbly. But Burton's devotion to her female characters sustains the novel even when the plotting wavers. Tidily if dully concluded, this second novel fails to hit the same sweet, wholly integrated spot as its predecessor, but Burton fans will be happy to reunite with her committed storytelling.
“[A] smart blend of literary and commercial fiction with intriguing characters and a compelling mystery at its center... Burton creatively infuses historical fiction with mystery in her exploration of the far-reaching consequences of deception, the relationship between art and artist, and the complex trajectory of women’s desires.
Glamour UK
“A simmering historical love story”
Daily Mail (UK)
“Like its predecessor, this is a tale with a refreshingly feminist slant, interested in the slipperiness of meaning”
Independent (UK)
“[A] rich palette of ideas and emotions… The novel excellently explores the writing process itself.”
Sunday Herald
The Muse is a brilliantly realised story, and the parallel narratives are perfectly balanced, propelling the story forward at break-neck speed... Jessie Burton can expect more awards to soon be coming her way.
“If you read and loved The Miniaturist, Burton’s enchanting bestseller set in 17th-century Amsterdam, The Muse arrives just in time for the end of summer... Love, war, desire, and art—it’s all here.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“The Muse... asks us to pay close attention, given the unexpected paths that wander variously through time, race, global politics and art history…[A] well crafted tale that draws you in, and in the end, respects you as a reader.”
“Jessie Burton meticulously reconstructs two different worlds… and ruminates on the nature of truth in art.. Told with remarkable care and evident research… A serpentine tale about art, truth and artistic ambition… [A] beautifully constructed story of art, ambition and the sacrifices one makes in the pursuit of both.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

Jessie Burton was born in London in 1982. She studied at Oxford University and the Central School of Speech and Drama. The Miniaturist is her first novel.

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The Muse 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous 4 days ago
Truly one of my favorite authors