From the author of the award winning and bestselling book, The Miniaturist, comes The Muse, published on 30th June. The Miniaturist was good but I think the The Muse is a far better book, a highly accomplished story, more confident book with Burton’s assured writing.
As the reader you can feel the author is more comfortable with her talent, the story flows brilliantly and it is a very enjoyable tale of love, war, death and secrets woven through the art world and set against a back drop of the Spanish Civil War and 1960’s London.
Odelle and Cynthia arrive in London from Trinidad expecting a bright, new and exciting life in “happening” London. Without distracting the reader Burton deals with the issues of blacks in London at that time and the struggles to break out beyond their world. She gives us glimpses of London at that time, the parties, the drugs, the freedom and the loves. When Odelle gets a job working in an art gallery not only does her world change forever she embarks on a quest to establish the history behind a lost masterpiece. Through the conversations between Odelle and her glamorous and enigmatic boss Marjorie Quick, Burton builds up the story of the masterpiece.
The story moves back in time to 1936 when we meet the Schlosses, Harold an art dealer, Sarah an heiress and their daughter Olive who begin a new life in Andalucia. Within days Isaac and his half-sister Teresa arrive into their world with devastating consequences. With subtle use of conversations Burton slowly builds up the relationship between Isaac, the family and Teresa whilst giving you an insight to life immediately before the Spanish Civil War.
Within The Muse Burton raises the issue of inequality within the art world, highlighting how hard it was/is for women painters to be taken seriously by the mostly male art dealers. She asks the question can you be creative with a cause, can you be creative and change the world or if one is incredibly talented will you need to forsake your causes as you build your career.
I loved The Muse, I will be recommending it as a summer read and although published in hardback, priced at £12.99 or more likely £10 I urge you to buy it now, it will be the must read of summer 2016.