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Dual time periods and a fabulous painting ...

The Muse - Jessie Burton

I enjoyed Jessie Burton's first book, The Miniaturist, and couldn't wait to read her new novel, The Muse. Both were enjoyable reads, but I did miss the magical realism element from The Miniaturist, while The Muse had a more satisfying ending.


The Muse is split between two time periods, Spain in 1936 and London in 1967.

The Spanish Civil War is brewing when teenage Olive Schloss arrives with her German art dealer father and English socialite mother. They move in to a fabulous old Spanish finca and are immediately approached by Isaac Robles and his sister, Teresa, who are searching for work. I loved these complicated characters and they effectively created a link to the approaching war.

Olive is an accomplished artist but her father is unaware of his daughter's talents and so it is Isaac Robles who he encourages to paint. One painting from this era finds its way into the 1960s story and to the Skelton Gallery, but its history is unknown and its provenance questionable. Is it a valuable missing gem from the past and if so, how did it find its way to the gallery??


Thirty years later, Odelle Bastien and her friend, Cynth, have left Trinidad and come to London to find work and improve their fortunes, but so far, a job in the Dolcis shoe shop is the best they have achieved. Then Odelle stumbles into a job as a typist in the Skelton Art Gallery and she realises that she has fond her niche. Her boss, Marjorie Quick is a fascinating and elusive character who Odelle longs to understand, while Quick, in her turn, takes Odelle under her wing and eventually confides in her.


The narrative weaves effortlessly between the two eras and drew me in with several unanswered questions. This is the type of book that always holds my attention, but The Muse had the added advantage of being beautifully written as well. 

If you enjoy dual era, historical novels I'm sure this one will be a great read for you too.