“art rarely obeys human desire”
After six years of living in Maryland, I finally got a Prince George’s county library card! I immediately checked out two books. One being The Muse by Jessie Burton. I’ll admit I had not heard of the author previously. It was the beautiful cover art that drew me in.
On a recent flight back home to Memphis – two hours non-stop – I began reading The Muse. I instantly knew I would not be able to put this book down. Burton weaves a compelling tale of secrets, mystery, and the lies we tell to the ones we (think we) love, including ourselves.
At the heart of this story are two women, or rather two sets of women, separated by time and place yet joined by enchanting art and deception. We follow Ms. Odelle Bastien, a young 20-something woman from Trinidad, as she receives her first “real” job in London as a typist at the Skeleton Art Museum under the direction of the mysterious yet powerful and self-assured Marjorie Quick. While Ms. Bastien narrates her life in the late 1960s, we join the Schloss family in Arazuelo, Spain in the early 1930s. The socio-political climate of the two time periods looms large in the lives of these two set of characters, as they navigate trying relationships, dreams of who they could be, and the constraining expectations of their place in the world.
The women of The Muse are connected to, and haunted by, a beautiful work of art. Who is the artist? What is the meaning of the art itself? and How will their lives be changed as a result?
“They believe it’s Isaac’s painting, and that’s all that matters, isn’t it? What people believe. It doesn’t matter what’s the truth; what people believe becomes the truth. “
I was completely engrossed in the lives of these magnificent women, never wanting their stories to end. By the time I turned the final page, I knew I had to re-read The Muse.
PAIR IT WITH a bottle of Sancerre (sauvignon blanc) to channel Marjorie Quick or a bottle of Veuve Clicquot (one of my personal favorites) to summon the many highs and lows that connect these women across time and place.