A literary adventure with a heady mix of fact and myth, Muse is
the first person story of Solange Le Blanc, the mysterious woman who is
the inspiration behind Petrarch's sublime love poetry.
Born on the street of the cloth dyers in 14th-century Avignon, Solange
has the gift of clairvoyance. She is orphaned at age five and taken in
by Benedictine nuns who think that she is destined to be a saint. At
fifteen, she evades her destiny by seeking her fortune as a Benedictine
scribe in a city now bursting with goldsmiths, bankers, clerics, and
harlots. In this extraordinary time known as the Babylonian captivity,
Solange falls in love with the poet Petrarch and becomes entangled in a
love triangle with Laura, the woman he worships from afar. Discarded by
her lover, and blacklisted as a scribe because she is a femme sole,
Solange sets out to transform herself into one of Avignon's spectacular
When her gift for prophecy catches the Pope's ear, Solange becomes
Clement VI's confidante and mistress. He passes her off as his "niece"
in the most celebrated court in Europe, a salon for the artists,
musicians, and intellectuals who are the avant-garde of the Renaissance.
Drawn into intrigues in the papal palace, Solange is vilified by the
Italians who, led by their poet laureate, Petrarch, are trying to compel
the Pope to leave this Babylon and return to Rome. Then an eclipse of
the moon darkens the sky, warning of divine wrath for the excesses of
the court. The plague follows, cleansing Avignon by killing one-third of
its population, and Solange is driven, once again, to reinvent herself
and fight against a final, mortal conspiracy to force her to embrace her
destiny as a harlot saint.
Praise for Mary Novik's Muse:
"[Muse] is rich and powerful, wiser than it may initially appear, and
thought-provoking on a number of levels. Solange herself is a stunning
fictional creation, and her story unfolds with the austerity and seeming
inevitability of a classical tragedy.... allow yourself to be swept
up in an account of how the world changed, and of the woman who was at
the centre of it all."
—The Vancouver Sun
"Solange is a compelling voice and the reader is as helpless to her
seductive charms as the powerful men in her life are. With Muse, Novik
has crafted a heroine who pushes against the constraints of her time and
station, placing her in a richly imagined world that thrums with life."
—Globe and Mail
"Mary Novik brings a literate woman out of the shadows of history....
[Muse is] a cross between Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose and
Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.... There is no doubt that the
sensational twists and turns of Novik's plot, the rapid changes of
scene, and the piling on of horrors, all combine to give this story a
wide appeal.... The various themes in Muse — women as nurturers of
male artists, as muse figures, as artist's models and subjects — are
skillfully woven by Novik, and given resonance by her knowledge of the
historical and literary background."
"In the tradition of Tracy Chevalier, A.S. Byatt, Sarah Dunant, and —
more recently — Cathy Marie Buchanan, Mary Novik's captivating second
novel imagines the circumstances surrounding the creation of venerated
works of art: in this case, the love sonnets of the Italian bard,
Petrarch. Novik's tale of Solange Le Blanc, fictional muse and lover of
Petrarch, is set in the 14th century, during the Avignon Papacy.
Brimming with political, cultural, and religious detail, Muse depicts a
period of stark contrasts when soaring works of human ingenuity and
creativity were produced amid social corruption, degradation, and
"Like such popular historical novelists as Sarah Dunant and Philippa
Gregory ... Novik creates strong female characters — witty, charming,
and courageous — who are able to influence powerful men.... Novik
skillfully writes the origins of the early Renaissance with a feminist
point of view.... As literary fiction, Muse is an illuminating
portrait of women struggling to have it all, including lovers, children,
fortune and prominence."
—Winnipeg Free Press
Length: 300 pp
Setting: Avignon, France
Period: 14th century
Publication date: August 2013
Canadian rights, Doubleday Canada
Italian rights, Newton Compton Editori
French rights, Éditions Hurtubise
For all other rights contact The Cooke Agency.
Photo credit: Janet Baxter
Mary Novik's debut novel Conceit, about the daughter of
the poet John Donne, was hailed as "a magnificent novel of
seventeenth-century London" by The Globe and Mail. Chosen as a book of
the year by both Quill & Quire and The Globe and Mail, Conceit was
long-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and won the Ethel Wilson
Prize. Canada Reads named Conceit one of The Top 40 Essential Canadian
Novels of the Decade. Mary lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, and is
writing a series of novels about minor characters in the lives of great
figures of literature
Connect with Mary at www.marynovik.com