The Muse Book Review
By Alexis Mercer
I recently read an article by Jen Hatmaker about the end of the school year for parents. How at the beginning of the year all the responsibilities you tackle with vigor: making lunches, checking backpacks, getting homework done in a timely fashion. Come May, however, these same parents are counting the hours until school is done so these tasks can be over for a short time. That is me. Only it’s triple because I am a teacher and coach, too.
My kids’ backpacks went unchecked (sorry teachers, I know I am the worst return-permission-slip-mom-ever). We got school lunches because ain’t nobody got time to make lunches in the morning when we are pulling ourselves out of bed at the last possible second. We made it to every soccer practice, but darn it if we didn’t have to exceed the speed limit just a teeny tiny bit to get there on time.
Then there was my classroom. All the papers were graded and the lessons were taught, but it might have come down to the very last minute of the very last day. I entered grades and checked the items off my list for completion one by one, thankful that I was going to get a break soon to refresh and rejuvenate myself.
So in these last few weeks of complete chaos, what I needed was a book that wasn’t difficult, but provided a high level of entertainment for my over-stimulated mom/teacher/coach brain. One that I could fall into bed at night and enjoy a few pages at a time before it inevitably fell on my body because I had fallen asleep reading.
The Muse by Jessie Burton was just that book.
Set in two time periods, 1936 and 1967, the story revolves around a painting and its creator. Olive Schloss is the daughter of an art dealer who has recently moved with her parents to a villa in rural Spain. Suffocating under her parents’ rule she desperately wants to tell her them that she has been accepted to art school, where she secretly applied, but that never comes to fruition. Instead she immerses herself in the new life in Spain, befriending a revolutionary Isaac Robles and his sister Teresa.
In the other half of the story, Odette Bastion is a young woman who has come to London from Trinidad, struggling to find her way. She just recently accepted a new position as a typist in an art gallery under the wing of a mysterious woman, Marjorie Quick. A painting arrives at the gallery while Odette is there, and the story begins to unfold in rapid fashion.
The storyline was clever but easy to follow, characters were well-developed and intriguing, and the pace quick enough to make it hard to put down. I very easily painted a picture in my mind about the story while I read.
While I enjoyed the book amidst the end-of-the-school-year push for the finish line, it would also be a perfect summer read while sipping iced tea in the shade on a warm, sunny day.
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