Muse is the first person story of Solange Le Blanc, the mysterious woman who is the mistress of Francesco Petrarch and later becomes the prophet and mistress of Pope Clement VI.
Muse is published in English by Doubleday Canada, in Italian by Newton Compton as L’amante del Papa, and in French by Éditions Hurtubise as Muse. Here, you’ll find highlights from reviews, a book club guide, author Q&A, the first chapter, and information about what inspired me to write Muse. See Backstory for Muse for background posts, images, and surprising facts about the 14th century.
Synopsis for Mary Novik’s Muse
I first heard my mother’s heartbeat from inside her dark, surrounding womb. It mingled with my own heart’s rhythm, then changed to a harsher, more strident beat. It was then that I had my first and most famous vision of a man kneeling in a purple cassock and biretta . . . I looked straight into his eyes and they were as hard and blue as lapis lazuli.
Solange Le Blanc begins life in the tempestuous streets of fourteenth-century Avignon, a city of men dominated by the Pope and his palace. After her harlot mother dies, Solange is raised by Benedictines, who believe she is clairvoyant. Trained in the abbey’s scriptorium, but troubled by disturbing visions, she escapes to Avignon to work as a scribe. There, she meets the charismatic and ambitious poet Petrarch and becomes not only his lover but also the muse who brings his sublime poetry to life. Later, when Solange’s gift for prophecy seduces Pope Clement VI’s ear, she becomes his confidante and mistress, winning a powerful rôle in the most celebrated court in Europe. When the plague sweeps through Avignon, Solange must fight against conspiracy and accusations of sorcery to find safe haven for herself and those she loves. This lush and sweeping historical epic magically evokes the early Renaissance, capturing a time and place caught between the shadows of the past and the promise of a new cultural awakening.