The title of The Muse, as with Jessie Burton’s successful debut The Miniaturist, is something of a red herring. Although the book revolves around Odelle, a writer in 1960s London, and Olive, a painter in 1930s Spain, Burton focuses more on issues of authorship than inspiration: the creator rather than the object of the creator’s gaze.
Those two protagonists shy away from public recognition, preferring to work in secret despite, we are told, their prodigious talents. As no plausible reason beyond the fact of their sex is given for their reticence, the book’s central thrust feels weak and, in these times of ‘leaning in’, outdated. Of