Memoirs of a Muse, by Lara Vapnyar…I give it Four Stars.
Memoirs of a Muse is a tale of a Russian woman named Tanya, who has dreams of becoming a muse to a famous author. She is obsessed with the life of, and the writings of, Dostoevsky, and with the women in his life, fantasizing on them.
The novel is based on Tanya’s memoirs, and details how she immigrated to New York, and eventually met Mark Schneider, a novelist who lives in New York. It deals with the immigrant experience, the desire to assimilate, the need for acceptance, the fear of failure, and the pain of what it means to inspire one’s self, and others.
We see Tanya’s life begin to crumble, once she moves in with Schneider, even though her dream of being a muse to an author seems to have come to true. Schneider makes no pretense, and is ever the insensitive and insistent partner, not able to commit to anything other than the superficial. For him, their relationship is founded on sex, and his gratification. For her, it is based on emotions and her romantic visions. We do see her begin to develop a sense of Self, and gain esteem, within the relationship’s confines.
For her, and her romanticized perspective, becoming a muse is her life’s vision and desire. Her life seems to parallel the life of Dostoevsky and his mistress, in many respects, as we are taken back and forth through time, from the present to the past, and back again.
The ending is a bit of a surprise, we least expect it to end the way it does…but it is a realized ending, and brings closure for Tanya.