I would never have thought that a novel told in verse would appeal to me as I do like poetry but I have these literary forms pigeonholed in my head as different and which, as such, should not mix. However, having read a previous story told in verse with an ancient Greek origin, which perhaps is more suited to this genre hybrid from its heritage, I was delighted by Amy Ellis’ The Muse and found myself captivated by the story of Elizabeth Miller in a way that surprised me.
Elizabeth loves to draw and when she is discovered by someone called John who aims to nurture her talent, her life changes inordinately as she discovers a love for the human form and her ability to capture it through her art. Not all around her approve of her talent, seeing it as seedy and depraved but Elizabeth, through Ellis’ narrative verse describes what to her is something of which she is passionate and feels is true, in the sense that she sees no harm in it. However, society and its attitudes against what could be perceived as something far more than the mere appreciation of the body require it to be kept secret.
There was a romanticism to the verse that I loved. It is a very different experience to read a story like this through poetry rather than a prose narrative, almost like seeing Miller’s life through a veil where she offers us glimpses of different aspects, like her dropping thoughts that she wants us to see; vignettes of encounters and experiences, episodic almost. All of these combine to create a collage of her life and it is difficult not to feel the sensuality of it, the danger of doing something forbidden and yet, enjoying the process so much that it is instinctive to you, so much so that the contemplation of something else feels alien.
In addition to the painting, it is also a novel about love, passion and attachment, all of which can have a bearing on how one conducts one’s life to varying degrees and with varying impacts.
I was touched by this book. I will definitely read more of Amy Ellis’ work and can only hope that it replicates the feeling that I had on my reading of The Muse.
I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.