A few days ago I finished The Muse by Jessie Burton. Burton also wrote The Miniaturist, which was not a bad read but not one of my favorites. Like The Miniaturist this one is a tangled tale of past and present, tied together by an inanimate object.
The Muse follows the story of Odelle Bastien (1967) and Olive Schloss (1936). Odelle is a black woman living in London during a time when being black and a woman doesn’t always insight good behavior. Olive is a white, young woman who moved to Spain with her art dealer father and sometimes suicidal mother. Thirty years and circumstance seperates these women, what can they possible have in common?
A mysterious painting lands on the doorstep of the art gallery Odelle works at and causes passion and panic in those who see it. The paintings history is fuzzy and Odelle suspects one of her bosses, Marjorie Quick, of knowing more than she lets on. Odelle, curious, digs deeper then she should and discovers a history waiting to be told.
The mystery of the painting resides in 1936. Olive, her father and mother all but take in local siblings. They give them jobs and in Teresa’s case a purpose. But the Spanish Civil War is looming and World War II is on the horizon.
Can Odelle uncover the past? Will she be able to piece together a fractured past full of lies a deceit? And will she emerge from this mystery the same person?
There were some things about this book that I really liked, but there were others that were very typical for this type of narration that left me feeling middle-of-the-road. It was good, not great. With the exception of Quick, the characters were very predictable and I was even able to guess the big “twist” before the end.
A few things I did like were the author’s take on genius and artistic interpretation. Her characters discuss genius, artistic and other forms, and how popularity can often stunt ones genius. This can be very true. We see everyday the pressures of popularity and fame and what they can do to people–drugs, breakdowns, altered visions of the world. Very thought provoking.
This story also talks about artistic interpretation and how the meaning of art, passed down through the ages, is often interpreted and re-interpreted. It’s history is like a giant game of telephone. The feelings invoked may be looked aside for the story behind the art itself.
This book has some great moments that were deep and made you think. It was interesting to see how all the ends would tie together and ultimately, it kept me reading. For that it gets 3.5 stars.
That’s all for now!
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