The Muse – Jessie Burton

This book jumped to the top of my TBR when I discovered Jessie Burton would be attending Adelaide Writers Week to discuss The Muse. This novel starts with Odelle, a Trinidadian aspiring writer who gets a job working at a fancy galley in London called the Skelton in the 1960’s. There she meets the mysterious conundrum that is Marjorie Quick. When the confident Quick is left shaken after a lost masterpiece is uncovered Odelle is determined to find out what has her so rattled. The reader slowly discovers the history of the painting back in Spain at the beginning of the civil unrest in the 1930’s. We meet Olive and her parents taking some time out in a villa in the country when two strangers arrive and change their lives forever.


The Muse was an extremely fast-paced read. Once I started I could not put it down as I just had to find out what happened. Although I may have read one too many Kate Morton novels as I managed to guess one of the major plot twists. The characters were a definite highlight. I found myself thoroughly enjoying Odell’s narration. She is prickly, intelligent and stubborn. I loved her interactions with her best friend and her new love interest, watching them trying to draw her out of her self was entertaining and endearing. Her relationship with Marjorie was a highlight. Marjorie is a great character and the two together keep the reader on their toes with the constant shifts in direction and mood.


On the flip side the story of Olive and the how the mysterious waiting comes to be is fascinating. The balances in each relationship are unique and each add something to the plot. The jealousy/power struggle between Olive and her mother is one relationship that is on a knifes edge throughout the book. Her father’s insistence that although women may paint they cannot be artists and her silent rebellion add another dimension. Isaac and Teresa and the air of mystery add a sinister taste to the air. All the while the two plot lines slowly converge into a complete story that leaves the reader a little shell-shocked at how it all wraps up.


I found this an enjoyable mystery that I thoroughly loved and can’t wait to read again. Hearing Burton speak about this novel only increased my love for this novel and my admiration for the author herself. I would urge anyone to give this book a go. I give The Muse four paintings, the centre that this plot revolves around.


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