I pre-ordered this book a few months before its release date and was very excited to order a signed edition of the book. After reading Jessie Burton’s debut novel The Miniaturist I was very excited to read her next book hoping that it would be just as intriguing as the first. I was fearful to pick up this book at the start and hesitated in case it didn’t live up to the standard of The Miniaturist but in ways I enjoyed this book more.
Burton has the talent to construct a novel in such a way that the reader feels part of it. It’s almost like you have been picked up from the sofa and dropped into this world. For most of the book I felt a level of intrigue and suspense as the book began on a mystery that unravelled with every chapter. Jumping from the 1930’s to the 1960’s this plot intertwines two stories and their characters. I found it hard to put the book down after spending some time in the setting of the 1960’s before jumping back to the past; I was dying to know what was going to happen next.
This plot contains many interesting characters from people of colour, different cultures, nationalities and class. It really has it all including the tensions imaginable from the themes mentioned above. Burton didn’t hold back on any of the conflicts within the plot and the end result is a very honest and true story, possibly even a reflection of historical records and real events.
Without giving away too much of the plot this book looks at the civil unrest in Spain during the 30s partnered with the changing views of London in the 60s. This book has all of this with a touch of art and distinction. One of the biggest mysteries in the plot looks at several pieces of art and their origins, not just who painted them but what the inspiration was. As many people will know when you look at a piece of art, most of the time you are developing your own opinion of it and what you see. Yet most of the time we are not seeing what inspired the creation of the piece or what the artist had intended, it’s more of an emotional outlet and even at times a reflection of their mental state or being. This plot hones in on the artistic license, the inspiration and of course the muse.
With what I am seeing as a consistent theme in Burton’s writing, the plot tackles many different ideas and another that can be picked up on in the first few pages is relationships. This book has mother/daughter relations along with friendship, love, desire, convenience and many of the other themes apparent in each personality which add to the complication and human qualities of Burton’s characters. They project many feelings, struggles and aspirations that readers can empathise or sympathise with even if the situations are not identical therefore I think Burton’s novels have a maturity that is attractive to different readers.
I would highly recommend this novel as it has so much to offer and yet is just over 400 pages. As I was reading it I was so addicted to the plot and what was going to happen next. Although the reader is omniscient in some respects, there are surprises, twists and turns with every page. I suffered from a pretty huge book hangover when I finished this book because although it isn’t very long there is so much packed in and the reader is taken on such a journey that it feels like a longer experience regardless of the time it takes to read.
This book has depth, meaning and a unique storyline that is worth venturing into and therefore I gave it a 5 out of 5 stars on goodreads. I can honestly say that I will be pre-ordering Jessie Burton’s next piece of work as soon as it is available and without hesitation, the next time around I am confident it will be an extraordinary read.