‘The Muse’ by Jessie Burton

March 6, 2017 at 4:18 pm 3 comments

Jessie Burton’s back, people!

Some of Literary Transgression’s more loyal readers may recall my, ahem, lukewarm reaction to her, shall we say, disappointing The Miniaturist back in 2014. There was a lot of hype surrounding that book and, in the end, a lot of misplaced expectations. After reading it, I was actively irritated and very nearly swore never to read Jessie Burton again.

Despite that fiasco, however, I decided to give her a second try when this beautiful piece of Library Loot came my way.

I’m sorry, I know I’m not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but look at this one! Gorgeous! Lisa Perrin, the artist behind this beauty, may already have The Peter Mendelsund Award for Best Cover 2017 locked up!

(And if you love this cover as much as I do, you can read about how it came to be over at Picador!)

I am happy to report that my leap of faith was well worth it; in The Muse, Jessie Burton seems to have finally lived up the high expectations thrust upon her during The Miniaturist frenzy three years ago.

Taking place in 1960s London and late-1930s Spain, The Muse ostensibly tells the story of a single painting, unwinding its mysterious provenance through the two complimentary narrative threads. This surface story is very well done — Burton flawlessly reveals just enough in each time period to slowly bring the full picture (if you’ll forgive the pun) into focus, finally revealing all at the very end.

Beneath the story, though, are interesting explorations of the importance of art, the role of women in the artistic community, and the role identity plays throughout one life. Characters in each time period variously struggle with their gender, their race, and their place in society and, ultimately, they choose to disappear, assume a different identity, or live with an unsatisfying reality.

I had minor qualms with the book — mostly related to my ongoing aversion to dialects in the written word, although Burton uses dialects really interestingly here — but by and large, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed The Muse.

As readers of this blog will know, I’ve been struggling to read since the US election last fall and Jessie Burton’s The Muse is one of the first books I’ve raced through and stayed up late to keep reading in a long time. This book is stimulating and engaging, urging you to consider new perspectives and explore unfamiliar parts of history. In short: forget The Miniaturist; The Muse is where Jessie Burton shines.


Entry filed under: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction. Tags: , , , , , , , .

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley ‘The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry’ by Gabrielle Zevin

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kate  |  March 15, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    Ugh, dialect. Why.

    • 2. Corey  |  March 16, 2017 at 1:07 pm

      You know how much I hate dialect, but…SHE MAKES IT WORK! It’s as difficult to read as ever, but the way she uses it makes a really interesting point, I thought.

      It’s crazy to me that I am remotely defending dialect writing, though.

  • […] I felt relaxed and tranquil every time I looked at it. Simple and lovely. Corey: Jessie Burton’s The Muse! So detailed and […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Connect with LT

literarytransgressions (Gmail)

@LitTransgressor (Twitter)

LT RSS feed (Subscribe)

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 134 other followers


LT Archives

In accordance with FTC regulations…

...we must disclose that we are independent bloggers with no ties to authors, publishers, or advertisers. We are not given books or monetary compensation in return for favorable reviews or publicity.

Where we have received advance or complementary copies of books, it will be noted in the body of the entry, and will not affect our review or opinions in the slightest.

%d bloggers like this: