The BookBrowse Review

Published June 22, 2022

ISSN: 1930-0018

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Book Jacket

Sirens & Muses
A Novel
by Antonia Angress
12 Jul 2022
368 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Literary Fiction
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Four artists are drawn into a web of rivalry and desire at an elite art school and on the streets of New York in this magnificent debut for fans of Writers & Lovers and The Goldfinch.

It's 2011: America is in a deep recession and Occupy Wall Street is escalating. But at the elite Wrynn College of Art, students paint and sculpt in a rarefied bubble. Louisa Arceneaux is a thoughtful, observant nineteen-year-old when she transfers to Wrynn as a scholarship student, but she soon finds herself adrift in an environment that prizes novelty over beauty. Complicating matters is Louisa's unexpected attraction to her charismatic roommate, Karina Piontek, the preternaturally gifted but mercurial daughter of wealthy art collectors. Gradually, Louisa and Karina are drawn into an intense sensual and artistic relationship, one that forces them to confront their deepest desires and fears. But Karina also can't shake her fascination with Preston Utley, a senior and anti-capitalist Internet provocateur, who is publicly feuding with visiting professor and political painter Robert Berger—a once-controversial figurehead seeking to regain relevance.

When Preston concocts an explosive hoax, the fates of all four artists are upended as each is unexpectedly thrust into the cutthroat New York art world. Now all must struggle to find new identities in art, in society, and among each other. In the process, they must find either their most authentic terms of life—of success, failure, and joy—or risk losing themselves altogether.

With a canny, critical eye, Sirens & Muses overturns notions of class, money, art, youth, and a generation's fight to own their future.

"Angress sweeps everything toward a wonderfully complex conclusion. This is a standout." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A highly recommended novel of art and heart that viscerally represents the act of creation while balancing multiple themes to perfection." - Library Journal (starred review)

"An intriguing exploration of art and wealth spearheaded by messy, engrossing characters." - Kirkus Reviews

"Donna Tartt's The Secret History meets Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings in this entrancing portrait of 3 young artists who meet at an elite college at the height of the Occupy movement. Angress so deftly portrays the splendor and squalor of trying to create something great in the face of rampant capitalism, of love and lust in the face of tooth-and-claw competition." - Electric Lit

"Antonia Angress has written her exceedingly good debut novel, a shrewd and expertly sustained rumination on what it takes to be a self-supporting artist and whether it's even worth it... gripping... [A] dazzler of a debut novel." - Shelf Awareness

"Captures the ache-inducing quality of art and desire... a deeply relatable and profoundly enjoyable read, one drenched in prismatic color and light." - Kristen Arnett, New York Times bestselling author of With Teeth

"Brilliant...This narrative is intricate, moving, and often funny, and its scenes are beautifully crafted... A wonderful book." - Charles Baxter, author of The Sun Collective

"Powerful, elegant, and mesmerizing, Sirens & Muses reimagines ambition, passion, identity, and the intricate bonds between women. Antonia Angress is a writer to watch." - Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, author of The Revisioners

Antonia Angress was born in Los Angeles and raised in San José, Costa Rica. She is a graduate of Brown University and the University of Minnesota MFA program, where she was a Winifred Fiction Fellow and a College of Liberal Arts Fellow. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, the artist Connor McManus. Sirens & Muses is her first novel.

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