In 1967, Odelle Bastien is offered a job as a typist at the Skelton gallery in London. At a friend’s wedding, she meets Lawrie, and when she sees him at the gallery a few weeks later, she realises he is in possession of a very valuable painting. The origins of the painting go back to 1936, in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, and Odelle is convinced that her boss, Marjorie Quick knows much more about the painting than she will ever say. Can Odelle find the truth behind the painting?
Burton writes with a distinctive style and her use of language is extraordinary. She describes simple things, such as the rain and the flame at the end of a cigarette in minute detail, and this helps the reader to picture the surroundings and build suspense. I often write in my reviews that I love books with a twist, and The Muse has one. Whilst I had guessed what the ultimate twist would be, Burton’s ability to make me connect emotionally with each character, combined with her dramatic writing style, meant that I was reading on the edge of my seat until the very end and I loved every second of it.
The Muse is written in sections, alternating between 1967 and 1936. In doing so, Burton allows the reader to gain an insight into the environments in which the characters are living, and this increases our empathy for them. The Spanish Civil War is an area of history with which I am not familiar, but Burton has researched it thoroughly and applied her knowledge with sensitivity, so that readers who are not aware of the historical background are still able to relate to the characters and their circumstances.
I have been excited to read The Muse since reading Burton’s first novel, The Miniaturist, and I did not think that the standard she had set could be improved. I was wrong: The Muse is even better than The Miniaturist and I highly recommend it!
The Muse is available from Amaz0n.