So I will admit that I was a little hesitant to pick this book up, simply because of the title. Cuz, you know. It’s a bit too obvious a choice, right? But I’m so glad I did, because I was really blown away by how perfect this book was for Muse Monthly. It was just the right thing at the right time, and everything seemed to fit together so well. I was looking for a book that not only had a great story with historical elements, but also shown a light on the complexities of women – and The Muse does just that.
If I had to pick a single word to describe this book, that word would be ‘passion’ – and we talk about passion in lots of different ways. We can talk about the obvious – about passion between people and of people, about lust and the many facets of human affection. We can talk about passion turning to obsession. We can talk about the dangers of passion, and how quickly it can become desperation. We can talk about Odelle and the slow burn between herself and her Mr. Scott, about passion that builds slow and steady as someone’s walls come crumbling down. We can talk about passion that is immediate and intense, like when Olive sets eyes on Issac like he’s a target. We can talk about passion in secret, passion that hides away, that comes through in stolen glances. And we can talk about passion that leads to heartbreak, and the tragedy of Theresa wanting what she can’t have.
But at the same time we can also talk about passion as it relates to art, and an artist’s passion for their work and for creating. I think the story of Olive’s talent having to be hidden away due to her family circumstances is a compelling one when we think about the lengths she took to get her work seen. We still live in a world that can be difficult for women who make art, and many women (famously JK Rowling and and the Bronte sisters) adopt male personas to sell or market their work. It is this act that causes the lives of two families to intertwine and tangle. But did she have another choice? At the same time we also have to talk about Marjorie Quick and her passion. The enigmatic Quick is the point around which the story spirals, and we see her careful passion for art and her work, as well as the secrets and lies that she has built her life upon. And Quick showcases another important aspect of the story – a support for other women, and the importance of female friendships and the relationships between women in the novel.
The Muse is a novel that a reader can easily get wrapped up in. The writing is intense and realistic, and the story unravels in the most brilliant way. It’s exciting to follow the lines that connect people through history, and Jessie Burton does an amazing job of showcasing all the passions of a full life.