Narrated by: Cathy Tyson
Listening time: 12 hours 7 minutes
Summary of ‘The Muse’
A picture hides a thousand words . . .
On a hot July day in 1967, Odelle Bastien climbs the stone steps of the Skelton gallery in London, knowing that her life is about to change forever. Having struggled to find her place in the city since she arrived from Trinidad five years ago, she has been offered a job as a typist under the tutelage of the glamorous and enigmatic Marjorie Quick. But though Quick takes Odelle into her confidence, and unlocks a potential she didn’t know she had, she remains a mystery – no more so than when a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.
The truth about the painting lies in 1936 and a large house in rural Spain, where Olive Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer, is harbouring ambitions of her own. Into this fragile paradise come artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa, who immediately insinuate themselves into the Schloss family, with explosive and devastating consequences . . .
My review of the book…
I loved ‘The Minaturist’, and so I had faith in Jessie Burton’s ability to spin a flipping good historical yarn. She didn’t let me down with ‘The Muse’. This novel has been sitting on my virtual ‘to be read’ shelf since its publication back in 2016. All I can say say is that I’d wish I’d read it sooner – I listened to the whole 12 hours of the audiobook within abut a day and a half of Christmas preparations this week. I adored it!
I found it refreshing that both narratives had a historical setting, rather than one being set in the present day. First of all, we meet Odelle, who begins working at a small art gallery in London. I was convinced that she’d inadvertently signed up to work for MI5, but as usual, my early predictions were about as inaccurate as it’s possible to be. We then step back into the Spanish countryside in 1936, with revolution as the backdrop and the Second World War on the horizon.
It took a while to see how the two narratives were connected, but there was a definite ‘click’ of realisation halfway through. And what a connection! The twists in this novel are clever, sneaking up on you without warning
I’d recommend this novel to anyone with either a love of art history, or someone who enjoys a historical backdrop without wanting it to dominate the plot. At its heart, this is a feminist novel about strong women who each fight for autonomy in their own times. It’s an emotional rollercoaster of a book about the strength of female relationships and the way that women are perceived within the boundaries of their times.
… and the Audiobook
Cathy Tyson’s reading made this audiobook for me. Her tones are warm and confidential, and I felt like she was reading just to me. Both of the intertwining narratives were delivered with conviction and personality. I’d go out of my way to listen to other audiobooks narrated by the actress int he future.