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BOOK REVIEW: The Muse by Jessie Burton

| 24 September 2016 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: The Muse by Jessie Burton

Pan Macmillan
June 2016
Paperback, $29.99
Reviewed by Amy Briggs

Contemporary Literature



‘You’re so naïve-it wouldn’t have worked out the same way at all. There’d be no flirty letter from Peggy Guggenheim, no exhibition in her new gallery on the basis of one painting, nothing like it. And it would take all my energy “changing things” as you put it, with none left over to paint- which is the whole bloody point of everything.’

I like a book with depth. When I first started reading this book, I thought it was slow and dull and I kept falling asleep after struggling through three pages. I didn’t know where it was going, either. But this book is real literature, none of this fluffy novel stuff; the sort that makes you feel all gooey, but which you can read in five seconds flat. Burton writes proper stuff and writes beautifully, and it’s refreshing.

So, after sitting myself down for a more thorough reading session, I really quite enjoyed it. The story was woven wonderfully, with a time jump from 1937 to 1967, from Spain in the late 30’s to the hip and trendy London of the 60’s.

The characters did feel as though they lacked some depth, but after some thought upon finishing the novel, this aspect didn’t take away from the book’s marvelous ability to capture the tone of the times or the themes that Burton weaved into the novel’s plot. Really, the characters could have been anyone, as their only purpose in this novel was to address the themes that Burton wanted to express, because the most important part of this novel were the issues surrounding art and sexism and racism, and the struggles of the people who fall into one or more of these affected categories.

Lawrie leaned in to kiss my cheek as we walked down the station path. There was an intake of breath behind us. I turned; one of the tweed women, trying to look as if she hadn’t made the noise at all.
‘Come on’ said Lawrie quietly. ‘Let me take you out of the eighteenth century.’
Except it wasn’t the eighteenth century. It was late October 1967, in Baldock’s Ridge in Surrey, and you weren’t allowed to kiss me without comment. Or perhaps, more accurately, I was not allowed to be kissed.

All in all, Burton has done an excellent job with this novel, and I highly recommend it if you feel you need a little more substance in your reading life.

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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