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Publisher's Summary

A picture hides a thousand words....

On a hot July day in 1967, Odelle Bastien climbs the stone steps of the Skelton gallery in London, knowing that her life is about to change forever.

Having struggled to find her place in the city since she arrived from Trinidad five years ago, she has been offered a job as a typist under the tutelage of the glamorous and enigmatic Marjorie Quick. Although Quick takes Odelle into her confidence and unlocks a potential she didn't know she had, she remains a mystery - never more so than when a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.

The truth about the painting lies in 1936 and a large house in rural Spain where Olive Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer, is harbouring ambitions of her own. Into this fragile paradise come artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half sister, Teresa, who immediately insinuate themselves into the Schloss family, with explosive and devastating consequences....

Seductive, exhilarating and suspenseful, The Muse is an unforgettable novel about aspiration and identity, love and obsession, authenticity and deception - a masterpiece from the million-copy best-selling author of The Miniaturist.

©2016 Jessie Burton (P)2016 Audible, Ltd

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Sarah-rose
  • 08-26-16

Left me emotionally confused... But I loved it!

Had I reviewed this book when I had first finished it, it would tell of disappointment and frustration. Frustration that none of the story lines in the book end how you want or think. Every time you felt you were on top, or wished for something, the book would just do the total opposite. So, when I finished the book, I was annoyed.
Given a while, I realised how fond I was of it and how brilliant it truly was. It wasn't a fairy tale ending like so many books, neither was it predictably morose. It was interesting, gripping and kept me on my toes! I got over my petulance at it not turning out how I'd hoped and realised how much I liked it. It's the first book that's ever made me feel this way!

It was very well read but I found her accent for Odell a little one-mood (she sounded excited at almost everything she said!) but nothing too major.

I've enjoyed both of Jessie Burton's books- both totally worth it!!

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • bookylady
  • 01-29-17

A Tale of Artists, Love, Identity & Deception.

Any additional comments?

I was underwhelmed by Jessie Burton's first, hugely successful novel,The Miniaturist. So I approached this book with a certain degree of caution. But I was totally won over by this cleverly concocted tale of love and loss, identity and deception, the intrinsic and monetary value of art and the power of grief,set in two separate time periods.

Odelle Bastien finds herself in her dream job, working at a London art gallery by day and writing stories in her spare time. She meets her mysterious employer, Marjorie Quick, and soon becomes the older woman's protégée. And confidante.

When Odelle's boyfriend Laurie brings a painting owned by his late mother to the gallery for evaluation, Marjorie reacts curiously and refuses to engage with other staff about it. But she starts demanding information about the painting's provenance, Laurie's connections to the artist and how his mother came to be in possession of it. Marjorie reveals to Odelle that she has a terminal illness and so begins a quest for the truth and a race against time for Odelle to discover just who Marjorie and Laurie really are and the extent of their connection to each other and the painting.

This is a compelling story, beautifully plotted and skilfully constructed with fabulous period detail of life in 1930s Spain during the tumultuous and dangerous time of the Spanish Civil War. It also evokes a believable portrayal of life in 1960s London when immigration from the Caribbean islands first started to become prevalent. The experiences of Odelle and her friends from Trinidad and the prejudices they faced at work and in everyday life are set out in an easy-to-read but hard-to-forget way.

This is a book that can be enjoyed on many levels;it can be taken as a good yarn, well told or, as I think it should be, as a tale with dark, deeper meaning; a lesson to us all on prejudice and its consequences. It will stay with me for a long time and I think I will probably read it again. Very glad I tried it.

The narration is good, particularly the sections involving Odelle's voice. Some more variety in the tone of voice would have been nice but it did not spoil my overall appreciation of the book.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Hannah
  • 11-18-16

Wonderfully woven story

What a cracking novel. I loved this book. Excellent character development and intricate story telling. A journey of intense emotions. Beautifully narrated too. Highly recommend.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Sian Rogerson
  • 12-01-16

Superb

After expecting Jessie Burton to narrate again it was a surprise to hear Cathy Tyson however she did a wonderful job. Another great story from this author, different but equally intriguing and beautifully written.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Celticprincess
  • 09-29-16

Excellent Story, Great Narration

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Definitely! The story is gripping and well written. I've recommended it already and the feedback was just what I expected.

What did you like best about this story?

The way the different cultures are reflected and how well researched it is.

What does Cathy Tyson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

As a native speaker of both English and Spanish, I really enjoyed the way she handled the different accents. Even though there were a few words in Spanish that she didn't pronounce properly, I believe it was actually better for listeners who don't understand the language.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Yes, several moments moved me, especially Odelle's impressions of life in London in the 60'. There were several other moments, but I can't comment on those without including spoilers.

Any additional comments?

I enjoyed every minute of this book.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Rachel Redford
  • 07-11-16

Love and Art in times of tumult

Having sold a million copies of The Miniaturist is a hard act for author Jessie Burton to follow, and some of the difficulties which she experienced after her phenomenal success feed into her new fiction. Creating a successful work of art - here it is a painting - can have overwhelming and even tragic consequences.

The artworks at the centre of this story were painted by Olive Schloss, the 19 year-old daughter of Viennese art dealer Harold and his mentally fragile wife Sarah who have emigrated to Andalusia in the 1930s as the Civil War begins to simmer around them. 16 year-old Teresa Robles is soon entrenched with the family as a helper, and she becomes a close friend to Olive. More importantly she introduces Olive to her half-brother Isaac, an aspiring but pedestrian artist - and a burgeoning revolutionary - with whom Olive falls deeply in love. Olive is an inspired and gifted artist hiding her work away from public view, showing it to only Teresa, and it is Teresa who tricks Olive and shows the work to Harold Schloss, presenting it as her brother Isaac's work. (Easy to do since Harold believes no woman could ever be an artist). And so begins a dangerous game which leads ultimately to tragedy against the back drop of the increasingly vicious Civil War which the Schloss family can no longer ignore.

The other part of the story takes place three decades later in 1960s London. Trinidadian Odelle Bastien has been working in Dolcis for five years before she lands a job as a typist at the Skelton Institute where the woman co-director, the enigmatic Marjorie Quick, sees her potential, encourages her to write and secures the publication of her first work in London Review. Just as Teresa played midwife to Olive's art, so Quick (as she is known) plays midwife to Odelle's creativity. One day a young man, Lawrie Scott, brings a picture into the Skelton believing that it might be worth money. Quick's shocked reaction to the canvas arouses Odelle's curiosity and so begins a complex mystery about the painting, Lawrie (who falls in love with Odelle) and Quick which is gradually solved in the increasingly dramatic drama played out in the Andalusia sections of the story.

Jessie Burton is a subtle artist with words and her painter's eye makes the descriptions of place and paintings palpable and beautifully detailed: the 'apeggios' of birdsong; the 'grasshopper greens' and merging russets in Olive's paintings. The plot certainly draws you in, the devastating twist towards the end was pleasingly shocking (I'd guessed wrong), and the whole is bright with intense colour and detail. Overall, I think Jessie Burton tries to cover too much - 1960s hostility to immigrants like Odelle; women's struggle with their own creativity; the question of identity and belonging and not belonging; love and betrayal.... The list could go on. And then there's the examination of 1930s Spanish art, the violence of the Spanish Civil War and the art industry in 1960s London; the social mores of 1960s England..... all scrupulously researched but which do sometimes drag down the narrative.

The audio version presents a particular problem which is unsolvable, but left me feeling a bit cheated. There are many different accents adopted by the narrator which obviously keeps the pace and variety of the story and the many characters, but it is a problem when it comes to the mysterious Quick. Also there are unlikely elements which stretch credulity along the way, and the final London section pivots on an event which would fit into a nineteenth century novel!

Despite any quibbles, it's an ambitious and absorbing novel well worth listening to, and will no doubt sell a million copies!

18 of 23 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • lou58
  • 02-16-17

Wonderful writing, dire narration

A great example of how a bad narrator can ruin a good book. The writing is beautiful, the story engaging and full of twists and turns but the narrator's accents were laughable. Spaniards sounding like Russians, West Indians lapsing into Welsh, and at times the voice were over dramatic, it almost put me off, but if you can get past that this is a really wonderful book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • barbara
  • 01-30-17

This narration is so bad, the author should sue

What disappointed you about The Muse?

The opening lines are hilarious; Cathy Tyson reads in Indian, Scouse and Welsh accent before settling for a wierd West Indian Scouse. It becomes painful when she tries the Queens English. Occasionally a book is spoiled by a narration, this one was doomed the minute they employed Cathy Tyson to read. She chewed it up in a wandering Welsh/ indian/Carry On up the audible range of bizarre accents and spit it right out on the floor.
Shockingly bad. Diminished any virtue this reasonable novel had

What was most disappointing about Jessie Burton’s story?

De terreeble narratiyon boyo

What didn’t you like about Cathy Tyson’s performance?

Listen for yourself. It's so bad it's funny

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Incredulity. Then some more incredulity

Any additional comments?

Would be rude to go on

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Angela regan
  • 11-28-16

absolutely brilliant

This was even better than her previous book which I loved - expertly read by Cathy Tyson kept me engaged from start to finish everybody must read.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • MissMoftheUK
  • 10-21-16

Amazing story

I stopped watching TV to listen to this amazing captivating story which is really two stories in one with Quick as the common thread.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Karyn Hitchman
  • 07-09-17

I loved this story

I love this story, and I love the way it was written and the way it was read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • 3_piets
  • 05-24-17

One of the best audiobooks I've listened to

I picked this is feeling a little dubious but wanted something to spend my "last" credit on before I "cancelled" my audible subscription.. (they offered me half price for 3 months so of course I continued).
Odelle tells the story wonderfully, of Olive and her family's journey of love and loneliness, of life in Spain during the civil war and the beginning of WWII in Europe. The descriptions of artwork and life are well crafted and engaging. Worthy of the read.
As to the narration, it was one of the best I've listened to, and I've heard several hundred. Excellent changes between voices and accents, barely a mistake that I remember.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful