Courtney Maum's COSTALEGRE is "Mesmerizing and unsettling"
Courtney Maum’s Costalegre tells an earnest coming-of-age story inspired by the life of Peggy Guggenheim.
It is 1937, and Europe is on the brink of war. In the haute-bohemian circles of Austria, Germany, and Paris, Hitler is circulating a most-wanted list of “cultural degenerates”―artists, writers, and thinkers whose work is deemed antithetical to the new regime. To prevent the destruction of her favorite art (and artists), the impetuous American heiress and modern art collector, Leonora Calaway, begins chartering boats and planes for an elite group of surrealists to Costalegre, a mysterious resort in the Mexican jungle, where she has a home.
The story of what happens to these artists when they reach their destination is told from the point of view of Lara, Leonora’s neglected 15-year-old daughter, who has been pulled out of school to follow her mother to Mexico. Forced from a young age to cohabit with her mother’s eccentric whims, tortured lovers, and entourage of gold-diggers, Lara suffers from emotional, educational, and geographical instability that a Mexican sojourn with surrealists isn’t going to help. But when she meets the outcast Dadaist sculptor Jack Klinger, a much older man who has already been living in Costalegre for some time, Lara thinks she might have found the love and understanding she so badly craves.
Sinuous and striking, heartbreaking and strange, Costalegre is heavily inspired by the real-life relationship between the heiress Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter, Pegeen. Acclaimed author Courtney Maum triumphs with this wildly imaginative and curiously touching story of a privileged teenager who has everything a girl could wish for―except for a mother who loves her back.
Praise for Costalegre:
“This is a fascinating, lively, and exquisitely crafted novel.”
- Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“A brilliantly arch and haunting novel of privilege and deprivation.”
“This mother-daughter dysfunctional relationship is beautifully explored by Maum (Touch) in a soul-searching, atmospheric novel set in a hot, humid climate as torrid as the affairs of the characters who inhabit it.”
- Library Journal
“An arty, lavish novel, Costalegre examines one of the relationships that is often the most surreal to dissect: the one between mother and daughter.”
“When young Lara finds herself in Costalegre, living with her mother and a gaggle of 19th century surrealist artists, wonder and mayhem ensues. With this slim novel, Courtney Maum has gifted her readers with a breathtaking meditation on youth, art, and the ever-mysterious bonds between mothers and daughters. Costalegre is a spectacular high-wire act that dazzles and devastates.”
- Laura van den Berg, author of THE THIRD HOTEL
“Courtney Maum's Costalegre is a marvel―so lively, intimate, and strange you don't read so much as dream the voice and visions of Lara, our 15 year old narrator writing from a house full of surrealists in Mexico, as they wait out WWII. This is an unforgettable book, by a writer who proves on these pages that she can do anything.”
- Julie Buntin, author of MARLENA
“Mesmerizing and unsettling, Costalegre is a wonder, and Courtney Maum shows herself once again to be a writer of many gifts. This is a book for anyone who’s ever loved, and not felt sufficiently loved in return; and for anyone who’s had to try to grow up; for, that is, everyone.”
- R.O. Kwon, author of THE INCENDIARIES
“This story of a daughter searching for connection all around her has a sharp cutting edge, a world which changes its mood in an instant; bleak as the dregs of a wine-soaked dinner, then bullish as a house of hapless surrealists attempting to boil an egg. Memorable and meaningful, Maum's work remains with me as a reminder of love in the agony of teenage years and art in the terror of war.”
- Amelia Gray, author of ISADORA
“Here is war and here is art. And here is a child trying to become an adult in the midst of a Mexican exile. Maum’s stirred a brew of careless Bohemians, Führers and failed art students, negligent mothers and missing museums. Costalegre is as heady, delirious and heartbreaking as a young girl just beginning to fall in love with our world.”
- Samantha Hunt, author of THE DARK DARK
“In this story where our 15-year-old narrator is more mature and intuitive than the adult artists who surround her, bursts of brilliance hit me―chapter after chapter―like waves crashing against the shores of this allegorical Mexican coast. With its captivating mix of true-to-life characters and WWII history, Costalegre is surreal, intelligent, and full of integrity.”
- Mark Eisner, author of NERUDA: THE BIOGRAPHY OF A POET
New York Times review can be found here
Purchase COSTALEGRE here