There are so many things that could be said about The Muse by Jessie Burton, especially given the reviews it received on publishing and how well it went on to do in the book charts and awards, but with that a lot of it has been said.
Some things did come up whilst going through the book though that made me feel a little uncomfortable and initially I was unsure why. On delving a little deeper into the book and its author I realised that the very basic takes on race and society during the London part of the book is partly due to the basic research sources mentioned at the end of the book and that the author is white with no claims to the cultures mentioned. This is something that constantly pains me when the author doesn’t make a real attempt to learn beyond the basics every Tom, Harry and Jeremy knows and things like the choice to put certain conversations from Odelle, the main character, into spoken English on the page seemed unnecessary and done poorly when used.
Parts of the way politics are described during the part of the book that is based in Spain again really simplifies the situation and with that weakens the characters, their backgrounds and their plots enormously. It does manage to tackle women’s place in society and what was expected of a woman a little better though and this may be because of a deeper personal understanding from the author herself.
Once all of these flaws in research and representation had been looked beyond the plot itself was an interesting one and the book well split between the two different settings and groups of charecters. Some parts of the big reveal at the end were a little obvious and felt like commonplace approaches whilst others were a welcome surprise and made for a pleasant twist.
It is a book that I would consider reading again or that I might let somebody else read as the considerations of friendship, loyalty, loneliness, love and culture are deep and meaningful allowing for a lot of questions to be considered within the readers head. To me the book is very much something you might take on holiday with you but I struggle with it being deemed the book for Londoner’s to read in 2018 as it is nowhere near as deep or allowing people to reflect upon society and so on as it is being made out to be.
A worthwhile read? Sure. Captivating? Barely. Groundbreaking hot takes? No. Should you feel like you have missed out on some spectacular if you don’t get around to reading this book? Not at all.
Have you given this book a read? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.