Title: The Muse
Author: Jessie Burton
Pub Date: June 30th, 2016
My Rating: ★★★★☆
The Muse is a fantastic read with well-plotted twists. Odelle Bastien comes to London from Trinidad looking for better life, more chances for success. She’s hired by mysterious Majorie Quick to work as a typist in Skelton Institue. Odelle is a writer, and one of her poems is a starting point of her relationship with Lawrie Scott. Lawrie is an owner of a painting that as it turns out was painted by a very promising Spanish author that we don’t know much about. Lawrie brings the painting to the Skelton for examination – an event that shakes Quick and excites gallery’s owner. All this is happening in 1960s London. In parallel to how we follow Odelle’s steps to finding out what is Quick’s connection to the painting, we are taken back to 1930s Spain when the painting depicting Saint Rufina was created. It was painted in an uncertain time in Europe but in a somewhat happy time for the artist. Olive Schloss moved to small rural town Arazuelo with her parents, and there she meets Isaac and Teresa Robles. Isaac is a socialist that is passionate about helping workers; Teresa is his half-sister who is hired as a help in Schloss’s house. Robles change Schloss lives in many ways, leaving us wondering how the painting ended up in London thirty yeats later.
The story picks up only after some time, and I had troubles at the beginning to engross myself in the story. But when it finally come to a point where I could clearly see how the two stories are connected I was hooked. I wanted to know how the author will fool us into thinking one thing, and later showing us that the clues were directing us in an entirely different direction. It was predictable how the story will go, but it was still enjoyable. Odelle is a great character, she’s very smart and has a wit that is elevating the story. She was not overly emotional, even though she could go that way very easily. Luckily Burton kept her away from being a whiny character that will be insufferable to read about. Majorie Quick is a mysterious character and the one that will annoy you the most. Not because she’s created badly, but because she is written well and she’s just an annoying character that keeps too many secrets and doesn’t want to share them.
The character I had a problem with is Lawrie. He inherited the painting from his late mother, and he claims that he has no idea how he’s mother got that painting. We later learn more about his family, especially his mother. And when I knew all the details I could not think of any reason, and no sufficient reason was provided in the book, for Lawrie to keep some facts to himself. I cannot understand why he reacts or didn’t react to some fact he learns during the meetings with the gallery owner who was presenting data he managed to gather on Lawrie’s painting. He baffled me, and he’s actions didn’t always make sense to me.
The Spanish part of the story had more irritating characters – Olivia and Sarah, daughter and mother. Oh my… A very unhealthy relationship between those two. The whole family of Schloss has lots of secrets, and the keeper of them all is Teresa. Because of all the secrets, she has a lot of power that she is using in a way that changes the lives of the family. At heart, the Spanish part of the book is a sad tale, with a lot of pain suffered by the family, Teresa and Spanish people.
The final chapter is deeply satisfying. It was a perfect end to the story; I got exactly what I was hoping for, nothing more, nothing less. It is a book worth reading; historical fiction fans will love it.
The post was spell checked using Grammarly. Thanks to it I avoided publishing a post with 44 critical issues, and 19 advanced grammar issues.