Summer reads: Novels about paintings

The Muse, Jessie Burton

Fans of Jessie Burton’s smash-hit debut, The Miniaturist, will love her second novel, The Muse. Set between sixties London and civil-war Spain, The Muse tells the story of four women and the lost masterpiece with a secret history which connects them all. Burton’s compelling plotting asks us to engage with bigger issues – aspiration and identity, love and obsession, authenticity and deception.

The Improbability of Love, Hannah Rothschild (winner of the 2016 Bollinger Wodehouse prize

When Annie McDermott buys a grimy, unprepossessing painting in a junk shop, little does she know it’s Watteau’s ‘The Improbability of Love’, long thought to have vanished or been destroyed. Suddenly Annie’s world seems full of unscrupulous people who’ll stop at nothing to get their hands on it. Rothschild paints her reader a vivid picture of London’s glamorous, cut-throat art-world in her pacy and beautifully-written satire.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde

In Oscar Wilde’s classic novel, aesthete Dorian Gray begins to realise that his exquisite looks will fade, and sells his soul to make sure that it is not he, but his portrait, that will age and show the ravages of his dissolute, libertine life. The Picture of Dorian Gray has as much to say to us now about the cult of youth and beauty as it did when first published in 1890.

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