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The Muse by Jessie Burton

The Muse

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"On a hot July day in 1967, Odelle Bastien climbs the stone steps of the Skelton gallery in London, ready for her luck to change. She has been employed as a typist by the glamorous and enigmatic Marjorie Quick, who unlocks a potential Odelle didn't realize she had.

"When a lost masterpiece arrives at the gallery, Quick seems to know more than she is prepared to reveal and Odelle is determined to unravel the truth. The painting's secret history lies in 1936 and a large house in rural Spain, where Olive Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer, is harbouring ambitions of her own. Into this fragile paradise comes two strangers, who overturn the Schloss family with explosive and devastating consequences."

The Muse was thoroughly enjoyed by all in the group. The story is tightly woven and complex, yet flawless in how it all flows together.

There are so many different intertwined plots that there is almost another novel within the main story. The book covers different times and places, from Andalusia in 1936 and the Spanish Civil War to London in 1967, with a conclusion in 2002. The locations are atmospheric, with vivid descriptions.

There are many themes in this book and undercurrents: relationships and the complexity between them; secrets and betrayals within families; self-belief and the lack of it, and the role of women, particularly the female artist. As the main character Odelle arrives from Trinidad in 1967, the book also reveals the pervasiveness of racism at that time. The strong female characters carry the story while the male characters are portrayed as flawed and weak.

The Muse is very interesting read that gives insights into very different times and places. The story keeps you reading and guessing right up to the twist at the end.