Review of ‘The Muse’ by Jessie Burton

If you liked The Miniaturist, there’s no guarantee you’ll like The Muse, which is Jessie Burton’s second novel. It’s very different, although it does share the theme of creative women.

The story is set in two timelines. In London, 1967, Odelle Bastien, an immigrant from Trinidad who’s an aspiring writer, is drawn into a mystery about a painting. In Spain, 1936, on the brink of civil war, Olive Schloss, a secret artist, is in love with a radical and servant to the family, Isaac, whose sister Teresa becomes her best friend. The links between the two eras are slowly revealed.

There were some elements of this book I admired. The characters and settings were realistic and I could picture them well. Much research has obviously gone into the story and there was an impressive attention to detail. Ultimately I found it a frustrating read, however. Although the timeline narrated by Odelle started off interesting, it had stalled by halfway through and became mired in info dumping as the (not very mysterious) mystery took over. The exploration of West Indians’ experience seemed to peter out and there was little description of Swinging London. The Spanish timeline, narrated in the third person, was more interesting and gripping, although some of the details were grim. Unfortunately the 1960s sections had spoilers for the 1930s sections, making me less keen to read on.

In summary, I liked the concept of the story and there were memorable characters, but the way that information was revealed lessened the suspense and I felt there were missed opportunities in the 1960s timeline.

Published in 2016.

2 thoughts on “Review of ‘The Muse’ by Jessie Burton”

  1. I have a copy of this that I bought after I fell in love with The Miniaturist. Haven’t gotten around to reading it, and as you note, the dual timeline does sound a bit off putting!

    1. I doubt that you will like it as much as The Miniaturist, but I could be wrong.

Leave a Reply