Here’s a delicious combination — historical fiction set during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) interwoven with a surprisingly well-crafted mystery. I simply inhaled THE MUSE. Awarded four stars on Goodreads, but 4.5 is probably more accurate.
As a fan of her previous novel, The Miniaturist, I looked forward to picking up Jessie Burton’s THE MUSE. And I wasn’t disappointed. This historical novel takes place in two time periods — the late 1930s and the late 1960s. What ties the two together is a painting.
1936: A family of wealthy Austrian ex-pats (Harold, Sarah, and daughter Olive Schloss), living in Spain, meet a brother and sister (Isaac and Teresa Robles) who are sympathetic to the left-leaning forces struggling to change the country’s right-wing government. Isaac is an amateur artist and Teresa a teenager. In need of money to live, the two are hired by the Schloss family to cook, clean, and do odd jobs. Only their involvement with the Schlosses expands quickly.
1967: Trinidad born Odelle Bastien, a fledgling writer/poet, is thrilled when she lands an entry level job at an art gallery in London. Even better, one of her bosses, Marjorie Quick, seems to take a shine to Odelle. But it turns out there may be an ulterior motive in Quick’s interest. Odell also meets an attractive young man who has inherited a painting from his recently deceased mother. And what could be more natural than asking the experts at Odelle’s gallery for help in assessing its value?
I won’t divulge more about the plot, except you should expect romance, infidelity, betrayals, family secrets, and unexpected violence to touch all these lives. And while you try throughout to figure out how the story will be resolved, you’ll be proved wrong again and again, until you arrive at the surprising end. VERY highly recommended.
More about the author, Jessie Burton.
You may be interested in my review of her previous novel, The Miniaturist.