The Muse
The Muse

Book review: The Muse is a skilful story on art and luck

THE Muse ties together two story lines that are linked through the connection of Trinidad-born Odelle Bastien, who works in England in the late '60s, and Olive Schloss, a young Viennese woman whose family settles in a mansion in Spain in 1936, and the connecting discovery of a long-lost painting.

Set in civil war Spain and '60s London, it focuses on four women - Odelle Bastien, Olive Schloss, Teresa Robles and Marjorie Quick.

The Muse, the second book from the internationally best-selling author of The Miniaturist, threads themes of intrigue, creativity, and female empowerment.

In 1967 Odelle Bastien is a Caribbean émigré trying to make her way in London.

When she starts working at the prestigious Skelton Art Gallery, she discovers a painting rumoured to be the work of Isaac Robles, a young artist of immense talent and vision whose mysterious death has confounded the art world for decades.

The excitement over the painting is matched by the intrigue around the conflicting stories of its discovery.

Drawn into a complex web of secrets and deceptions, Odelle does not know what to believe or who she can trust, including her mesmerising colleague, Marjorie Quick.

Spain, 1937. Olive Schloss, the daughter of a Viennese Jewish art dealer and English heiress, follows her parents to Arazuelo, a poor village on the southern coast.

She grows close to Teresa, a young housekeeper, and her half-brother Isaac Robles, an idealistic and ambitious painter newly returned from the Barcelona salons.

A dilettante buoyed by the revolutionary fervour that will soon erupt into civil war, Isaac dreams of being a painter as famous as his countryman, Picasso.

The Muse deals in layers of passion, desire, ambition, and the ways in which the tides of history wash around the definitions of our own selves.

The first lines of this novel have much to say about its plot. "You have to be ready in order to be lucky. You have to put your pieces into play."

The author skilfully creates a set of colourful pieces and a rich interplay of plot and characters.

The Muse by Jessie Burton is published by Picador, rrp $29.99.

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