My grateful thanks to the publishers Zaffre, an imprint of Bonnier, for an advanced reader copy of Maestra by L.S.Hilton in return for an honest review. Maestra was released in e-book and hardcover on 10th March 2016 and is available on Amazon, from Waterstones, WH Smith and all good bookshops.
Judith is a general dogsbody for a London art house, dissatisfied with her life and wanting more. Maestra shows just how she gets it!
There have been mixed reviews for Maestra and because of the highly explicit sexual content I am sure some readers would be offended by the book. Judith is addicted to sex as a means of physical and emotional gratification and the passages depicting those events leave little to the imagination. I felt, however, that they helped explain the complex character that is Judith although I did find the ease with which she frequently engaged in a variety of activities with an equal variety of people quite surprising and possibly unrealistic at times.
The plot of Maestra is dramatic and twisting with several surprising events that I simply wasn’t expecting. Judith is not quite what she seems and those she encounters often have to find this out the hard way. She inhabits a world of metamorphism, changing to adapt to circumstances and I think this is one of the successes of the novel for me – Judith’s experiences are way beyond my own so that I had a glimpse of a decadent, violent and money driven world I wouldn’t otherwise encounter, but that the quality of the writing brought alive for me.
Another aspect that I thought was very good was the art world depicted. L.S. Hilton certainly knows her stuff. I looked up several of the artists and paintings mentioned and have been introduced to new artwork as a result of reading Maestra. This authenticity of background gives a credibility to the plot and characters too. The title is a stroke of genius. Maestra means teacher and I felt Judith learnt a lot about herself and I learnt an awful lot about art, understanding why she is called Judith – though to say more would be to spoil the plot. Judith also teaches the reader not to trust her and to look more closely for clues in both art and writing.
There is a well-depicted sense of place in Maestra. From glamorous yachts to Parisian streets, I found myself transported into other places by the writing. I know that the book has been optioned for a film and there is certainly a cinematic feel to the writing. L.S. Hilton has quite a unique style of narrative and I loved the variety of sentence structure that gave a rhythm and pace to the story and uncovered glimpses of the real Judith.
I thoroughly enjoyed Maestra. It will offend some, titillate others and entertain many. I think comparisons with a female James Bond or with 50 Shades of Gray are unfair. Maestra is a narrative in its own right and should be judged on its individual merit. I found it unusual, occasionally unrealistic and frequently exciting and absorbing.