I continued my theme of reading ‘art thrillers’* with The Muse by Jessie Burton.
The story begins in 1967, in London, where Odelle Bastien, a budding writer from Trinidad, gets a job as a typist at a well-known art gallery. Her boss, the elegant Marjorie Quick, takes a special interest in Odelle and her writing. Meanwhile, Odelle meets Lawrie Scott, a young man who has inherited a mysterious painting – the masterpiece, Quick believes, of a Spanish artist called Isaac Robles.
The history of the painting takes the story to a village in southern Spain in 1936, where Olive Schloss is living with her art dealer father and her glamorous but troubled mother. Although Olive is a painter of considerable talent, her father dismisses women as artists.
“Was the difference between being a workaday painter and being an artist simply other people believing in you, or spending twice as much money on your work? As far as Olive saw it, this connection of masculinity with creativity had been conjured from the air and been enforced, legitimised and monetised by enough people for whom such a state of affairs was convenient – men like her father.” Continue reading
A couple of years ago I made a resolution to occasionally buy books that I knew nothing about. I know, I shouldn’t strain myself, right? Anyway, the point was to seek out books that I hadn’t read reviews of; by an author that was new to me; and that didn’t have any ‘hype’. If you hang around book blogs, it’s harder than it sounds (but it’s okay, I’m coping). This is how I came across The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton.
The testimonials by S. J. Watson, Hannah Kent and Deborah Moggach (who wrote the very interesting book, Tulip Fever) on the cover of the The Miniaturist were enough to prompt me to pick it up – such an odd mix of authors singing its praises.
The story is set in Amsterdam, in 1686. The city is ruled by the sea and Calvinist burgomasters (both grim and ever-threatening), and its people shun ostentatious displays – meals of cold herrings and bread while their sugar is eaten in secret; plain woolen clothes lined with the finest furs and silks.
“Founded on risk, Amsterdam now craves certainty, a neat passage through life, guarding the comfort of its money with dull obedience.” Continue reading
Not so many Bookish Thoughts (hosted by Christine) this week, just things I’m loving (because I’m hating exam pressure).