My February read this year was Jessie Burton's The Muse; a tale about a mysterious painting, its origins and how it was re-discovered.
Despite already having a crammed bookshelf full of titles on my to-read list, I was recommended this book by a friend at work who bloody loved it. I was hyped and intrigued so I popped to Asda on my lunch break and started reading it that evening.
It's a story told over two time periods from two different characters perspectives. We arrive in 1960's London where we join Odelle Bastien as she starts a new job as a typist in an art gallery owned by the enigmatic Marjorie Quick. We learn about Odelles shy ambitions as a writer, the juxtaposition between her expectations of life in London and the realities she faces as a Caribbean immigrant in the sixties, and the new relationship she builds with a man named Lawrie. On the job, a new acquaintance of hers (Lawrie) brings in a family heirloom to be valued; a rather extra-ordinary painting from a mystery artist. The arrival of this painting causes quite the stir in the gallery, and it especially effects Marjorie for some reason...
We then go back thirty years where Olive Schloss and her parents (her Mother a socialite, her Father an renowned art dealer) move into a grand home in the South of Spain. We learn about Olives hidden talents as a painter and the lives of the wealthy family, the two locals they hire for housekeeping, and the political climate in Civil War Spain.
The story takes us back and forth between the two stories as we gradually collect clues about the painting and what connects all these characters.
In the beginning I wasn't too sure what I made of the book - it starts off in my opinion quite slow and unconnected, and I wasn't expecting all that much to happen. But boy was I wrong. After a steady build up, there is a sudden change of pace about halfway through as we start to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Olives tale becomes really dramatic and intriguing, and as Odelle gets closer to Marjorie we start to play detective and join her on the path to finding out what really is the story behind the painting and who the players are in the game.
The ending - no spoilers here! - takes a completely unexpected turn as Olive experiences the beginning of the war, and you do get put through the ringer as a reader when everything is revealed at the end!
I couldn't put the book down and I recommend it for those who love a mystery to solve; it's like a whodunnit Art Attack.