The Muse: A Novel (Hardcover)
Jessie Burton’s second novel after her 2014 international bestselling debut, “The Miniaturist,” centers on the lives of four women and the long lost painting that connects them all.
London, 1967: In her 20s, Odelle Bastien, a Caribbean immigrant, moves to England from Spain with her close friend, Cynth. With her first-class English literature degree, she longs to write. Finding suitable employment is not easy, however she secures a job at the Skelton Institute of Art as a typist, a position that thrills her, as it represents all she embraces, namely culture, art and history. There, she falls under the spell of an enigmatic woman named Marjorie Quick. In her 50s, Quick, as she prefers to be called, is mannish, elegant, unmarried and altogether a magnetic force in the gallery.
The delivery of an unusual painting to the gallery becomes the center of a suspenseful mystery. The painting is rumored to be the work of Spanish artist Isaac Robles, a widely recognized and talented painter from the 1930s. Robles’ mysterious death has puzzled the art world for decades. There are conflicting stories about the source of the painting, and Odelle does not know who or what to believe.
Spain, 1936: Olive Schloss, 19, is the daughter of a successful art dealer and heiress mother and, much like Odelle, harbors creative ambitions of her own. She has recently won admission to a London art school, though women, at that time, were not considered capable of creating serious art.
In the interim, she and her parents have rented an estate in Arazuelo, a poor village on the southern coast of Spain. Enter the revolutionary and talented Isaac Robles and his half-sister, Teresa, who are employed to help with the running of the household; thus begins a web of passion and deceit.
Spain at that time in history was fraught with political upheaval, which mirrors the tension and emotion simmering in the Schloss household.
Burton is marvelous storyteller, successfully interweaving historical fiction and an enthralling tale of ambition and deceit. Often it is incredibly challenging for an author whose first book is a smash hit to follow up with a brilliant second book, as expectations run so high. With her second novel, “The Muse,” Burton has solidified her reputation as a literary star.— From Book review: New novel enthralling tale of ambition, deceit
August 2016 Indie Next List
“Burton's follow-up to The Miniaturist also takes place in the art world, but this time the settings alternate between London in the 1960s and pre-Civil War Spain in the 1930s. In 1967, a long-lost work by a dead Spanish painter turns up in London. Is it really an original Isaac Robles? Or is there a more complicated story behind the intriguing painting? A fun read with interesting meditations on the purpose and making of art.”
— Susan Taylor (E), Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, NY
“Love, war, desire, and art—it’s all here.” —Elle
A picture hides a thousand words . . .
On a hot July day in 1967, Odelle Bastien climbs the stone steps of the Skelton gallery in London, knowing that her life is about to change forever. Having struggled to find her place in the city since she arrived from Trinidad five years ago, she has been offered a job as a typist under the tutelage of the glamorous and enigmatic Marjorie Quick. But though Quick takes Odelle into her confidence, and unlocks a potential she didn't know she had, she remains a mystery – no more so than when a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.
The truth about the painting lies in 1936 and a large house in rural Spain, where Olive Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer, is harboring ambitions of her own. Into this fragile paradise come artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa, who immediately insinuate themselves into the Schloss family, with explosive and devastating consequences . . .
Seductive, exhilarating and suspenseful, The Muse is an unforgettable novel about aspiration and identity, love and obsession, authenticity and deception – a masterpiece from Jessie Burton, the million-copy bestselling author of The Miniaturist.
About 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.
“A complex, vividly drawn tale... 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.”
— Publishers Weekly
“[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.
“A simmering historical love story”
— Glamour UK
“Like its predecessor, this is a tale with a refreshingly feminist slant, interested in the slipperiness of meaning”
— Daily Mail (UK)
“[A] rich palette of ideas and emotions… The novel excellently explores the writing process itself.”
— Independent (UK)
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.
— Sunday Herald, Scotland
“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.”
“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.”
— Minneapolis Star Tribune
“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.”