I picked up this book because it is beautiful and I judge books by their cover more than I would like to admit. Superficiality aside, The Muse by Jessie Burton is one of only a few books I have ever given five stars to on Goodreads. Here’s why.
The Muse is written like a dream. Burton is a beautiful writer who considers not only the words used and the semantics but also sentence structure and timing. Taken individually, the words are wonderful but the timing makes it a true delight. It is dual plotted with Odelle’s story in the 1960’s, intertwined with Olive’s story set in 1930’s.
The Muse Plot
Odelle is a talented writer, moved from Trinidad to London with her best friend, Cynth. She starts work in a shoe shop but her ambition leads her to work for strange Marjorie Quick as a typist. During which time, she continues her own writing, loses friends, gains a lover and a mystery. When her partner’s mother’s painting is considered to be valuable, Odelle concerns herself with Quick’s nervous energy– where there is a story to unravel.
The paintings discussed throughout the novel seem to reflect the characters and situations. Whether this is intentional or not, it is a beautiful element of the book.
Olive’s tale is just as beautifully written, tense and climactic as Odelle’s. Burton knows when to write what where to perfectly thread the pieces together for the reader. I adored Olive and Teresa in particular, sharing their joys and pains as they felt them.
It was a fascinating plot, two colourful contrasting worlds and people and I simply turned page after page, finishing The Muse in two sittings.
I enjoyed learning about race, identity and the angst in the build up to the Spanish war. I relished the confirmation that my guesses were true. Books either throw such absurd plot at you or fail your suspicions. The Muse, however leaves everything from affairs to characters’ true identities visible to observant readers.
I also toyed with the book’s title for a while, pleased to discover it’s dual semantics. The story could not have started without the painting, of which, Isaac, was the muse. Yet the story within the book could not have existed without the writer also having been inspired by the muse of her own finding.
It was a beautiful book about wonderful people and shed light on sensitive topics with grace.
My only question is: what did happen to Harold Schloss?