Costalegre
One of Literary Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2019.A Best Book of Summer at amNY, Moda Operandi, Publishers Weekly, Southern Living, and Thrillist.A Best Book of July at The Washington Post, Hello Giggles, Refinery 29, TIME Magazine, and Mind Body Green.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. 

Costalegre Details

TitleCostalegre
Author
ReleaseJul 16th, 2019
PublisherTin House Books
ISBN-139781947793361
Rating
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Art, Literary Fiction, War, World War II, Contemporary, Novels

Costalegre Review

  • Courtney Maum
    January 1, 1970
    BEST BOOK I'VE EVER READ.
  • Julie Ehlers
    January 1, 1970
    Costalegre is one of those books that's easier to admire than to enjoy. In this short novel, a wealthy socialite named Leonora gets a small group of artists and writers out of Europe ahead of WWII and settles them in a remote house on the coast of Mexico. Anyone who's ever seen a season of The Real World or Survivor knows there's no way all these strong personalities are going to get along for more than a few days at a time. Leonora is apparently based on Peggy Guggenheim; the writers and artist Costalegre is one of those books that's easier to admire than to enjoy. In this short novel, a wealthy socialite named Leonora gets a small group of artists and writers out of Europe ahead of WWII and settles them in a remote house on the coast of Mexico. Anyone who's ever seen a season of The Real World or Survivor knows there's no way all these strong personalities are going to get along for more than a few days at a time. Leonora is apparently based on Peggy Guggenheim; the writers and artists are based on real writers and artists; and 14-year-old Lara, our narrator, is the daughter Leonora neglects in favor of art, and the attention and "love" her financial support of the arts can garner her. The book also contains excerpts from a real book about Mexican flora, and includes a few of Lara's own drawings as she strives to become an artist in her own right.This novel is well-intentioned and it has its good points, most particularly a strong sense of place, but to me it felt labored, trying to do too much in its short length. Lara is the only kid at the house in Costalegre and isn't privy to everything that's going on there; all we know is what she tells us. There's a pervasive feeling that she, and by extension the reader, is always outside of the real story—not just the story of her mother and the artists, but the story of what's happening over in Europe and to the people they left behind. This is no doubt intentional, and it does give the reader a strong sense of Lara's emotional isolation... but it also strands the reader outside most of the action and mutes what should be vivid. I think this book achieved what it set out to do; I'm just disappointed that what it achieved wasn't more appealing to me. I hope the next novel I read has a much stronger protagonist who's allowed to be at the center of her own story.I won this book via the Tin House Galley Club. Thank you to the publisher.
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  • Jill
    January 1, 1970
    The year is 1937. A bitter little man disparagingly nicknamed Schlecty (better known to the world as Hitler) has declared a ban on modernism in the Reich. His former art school mates, denounced as degenerates, have been bankrolled by Leonora Calaway (think: Peggy Guggenheim) and fled to the jungles of Costalegre. And bearing witness is Leonora’s neglected 14-year-old daughter Lara, whose insights and observations drive the story.Temporarily unschooled and unmoored and unloved by her mother, Lara The year is 1937. A bitter little man disparagingly nicknamed Schlecty (better known to the world as Hitler) has declared a ban on modernism in the Reich. His former art school mates, denounced as degenerates, have been bankrolled by Leonora Calaway (think: Peggy Guggenheim) and fled to the jungles of Costalegre. And bearing witness is Leonora’s neglected 14-year-old daughter Lara, whose insights and observations drive the story.Temporarily unschooled and unmoored and unloved by her mother, Lara catalogs the indigenous plants, knowing that she and her mother’s entourage of surrealists, Dadaists, and outcasts are all displaced species. When Jack Klinger, a rebel who may be the one artist her mother doesn’t control arrives, an infatuated Lara regards him as a sense of solidness amidst the mayhem.This is a lovely book, filled with longing and yearning, of a girl on the cusp of adulthood who straddles the barriers between privilege and want. All of the themes of coming-of-age are here: loneliness and alienation, desire and want, internal growth and the power of imagination. Most of the characters are inspired by real-life counterparts—Guggenheim and her real-life daughter Pegeen, artists such as Andre Breton, and more. The location of Costalegre also plays a role: lush, exotic, filled with myths and tales, fodder for a young would-be writer and diarist. It’s a fine book that dazzles the reader.
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  • switterbug (Betsey)
    January 1, 1970
    This is a spare, elegiac, poetic, and moving book of longing, especially the hunger for parental love. I read it in one sitting. But I ask myself—would I have liked it as much if it wasn’t an historical, fictional portrait about the daughter of the celebrated and enigmatic Peggy Guggenheim? Did that add just the right mystique, knowing that this wasn’t just ANY fourteen-year-old? It’s hard for me to say, as that fact pervaded the narrative. However, I was transported by the voice of the narrator This is a spare, elegiac, poetic, and moving book of longing, especially the hunger for parental love. I read it in one sitting. But I ask myself—would I have liked it as much if it wasn’t an historical, fictional portrait about the daughter of the celebrated and enigmatic Peggy Guggenheim? Did that add just the right mystique, knowing that this wasn’t just ANY fourteen-year-old? It’s hard for me to say, as that fact pervaded the narrative. However, I was transported by the voice of the narrator, Lara, the daughter of the art philanthropist, Leonora. The relationship is fraught, as the mother is a self-centered and self-serving woman incapable of love.Written like a diary by Lara, she also includes letters to her brother and the botanical lexicon of numerous plants and flowers of the exotic locale, Costalegre, on the Pacific and western side of Jalisco, in Mexico. It is 1937, and Hitler’s power is gaining momentum. There have been several movies and books (fiction and non-fiction) about the “heroes” who hid some of the great art from the Nazis, so that Hitler wouldn’t destroy it (if it didn’t conform to his politics). Here is another—but the thrust of the novel is not about the adventure of hiding the art; it is about an intelligent, artistic, and neglected adolescent girl seeking love and connection.Leonora has taken Lara, her current husband, and several surrealist artists with her to Costalegre, where she feels secure from Hitler’s advances. She awaits a boat that is supposed to be coming, stored with the art that Leonora wants to sequester away for safe keeping. She doesn’t care that she has taken her daughter out of school and far away from her brother. Her concern is her art/artists, good food, sex, attention, and having control over everyone in her life.There’s a lot of white space in this book, which allowed room for me to silently convey my thoughts and feelings in response to Lara’s words. Her sensitivity and maturity is eloquently manifested, despite her mother’s indifference. She seeks kinship during her sojourns on the island, and I was captivated by her awkward but tender appeal to attain a deep connection and understanding.“That he will tell me something and it will be true. That he will continue to live in his small house…and listening to people…I don’t think I have ever been contemplated.” Like all of us, Lara yearns to be contemplated, observed, considered. She craves affection and reciprocity. Her growth pains and emotional hunger pains are lightly stated but deeply felt.
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  • Kelly Well Read
    January 1, 1970
    I'm reviewing Costalegre by Courtney Maum as I just turned the last page and it's still fresh on my mind. I will tell you that this is not a book I would normally choose to read, but after reading it I am again so impressed with the titles coming from Norton and Tin House lately. I loved The Key to Treehouse Living last year, Biloxi this year, and now this beautiful and strange novel, Costalegre. Based loosely on the lives of Peggy Guggenheim, her daughter Pegeen, and the surrealist art movement I'm reviewing Costalegre by Courtney Maum as I just turned the last page and it's still fresh on my mind. I will tell you that this is not a book I would normally choose to read, but after reading it I am again so impressed with the titles coming from Norton and Tin House lately. I loved The Key to Treehouse Living last year, Biloxi this year, and now this beautiful and strange novel, Costalegre. Based loosely on the lives of Peggy Guggenheim, her daughter Pegeen, and the surrealist art movement that Peggy supported during WWII by rescuing numerous artist and artwork from "Schlechty" (the nickname for Adolf Hitler), the author has chosen to place all these characters in the jungles of Mexico instead of New York (which can be a "jungle' itself, when you think about it). Costalegre is a slim novel narrated in journal entries by 14 year old Lara, who finds herself in a strange land with even stranger people, and most tragic of all, a mother, Leonora, who is so caught up in the "art" of her guests that she ignores her daughter and leaves her entirely to her own devices. Without a tutor to educate her, Lara is learning about life from the kaleidoscopic world around her, with her only friends being the neglectful, narcissistic artists who struggle to "work" with few supplies, food, or inspiration. Since her father and brother stayed behind in Switzerland to wait out the war, Lara is truly on her own; and her only real pleasure is attempting to draw and paint herself, which the reader gradually realizes is the only way she can gain any attention from the self-obsessed adults orbiting her life.The theme of "disappearing" resonates in this novel: horses, a goat, the servants, and finally some of the artists themselves disappear, too. Lara feels invisible, and when she is thrown from a horse and gone for a night, no one realizes she was even gone - she may have well disappeared herself.When an older male artist, who has lived in Costalegre full time since escaping Germany, expresses dismay that Lara is living in such circumstances, is it any surprise that she latches onto the one person in her world who seems to care about her?The novel ends rather suddenly, and at first I was disappointed that there wasn't more closure to the story. But upon reflection, I realized that I was feeling so much like Lara, having lived with her voice all day as I read: there is no closure for her in Costalegre. She knows not what the future holds for her, and when anything will get any better. She says near the end: "If I could speak the language here, I could call for a boat. But what kind of boat? To where? And I can't travel alone, not really. What a curse to be a girl!" And, "I should be an orphan; at least I'd be in school! At least people would make sure that I was in bed at night, at least, that! Instead of this, which is never-ending nothingness, nowhere for me to be." She ends with the hope that the ship that her mother commissioned with all the art from Germany will sink, so "there'd be nothing left to fawn over and boast about and move around the world for and maybe she [Leonora] would be emptied enough to finally mother me."Getting to know Lara has been beautiful and sad and worthy. Costalegre is a short novel with a much larger story than its length suggests, and the emotional impact will linger. Really well done.Thanks to Tin House Books and W.W. Norton Library Marketing for the ARC.
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  • Marcy Dermansky
    January 1, 1970
    Courtney Maum takes us into this other world, where 15-year-old Lara lives in a world of eccentric artists escaping World War II. Hitler, we learned, made terrible water colors. And Lara wants to paint and to be loved and to have a door to her room.
  • Cassie
    January 1, 1970
    Read it in a day, three settings. The voice, the extravagance, and the books of the whole world make this book just deliberate, and cunning, and beautiful. I have most pages dog eared for quotes to write down. Thanks Tin House for an ARC.
  • Drew
    January 1, 1970
    I love watching authors do their strange-historical-novel thing. A few recents that spring to mind include ISADORA, VISIBLE EMPIRE, AMERICA WAS HARD TO FIND, and now COSTALEGRE. Maum takes the story of the Guggenheims fleeing Europe before WWII to set up a surrealist enclave on the Pacific coast of Mexico, changes a few things (including names), and boils it all down into the diary of the daughter -- our fictionalized Pegeen Guggenheim, Lara Calaway -- whose insights are searing, funny, and alto I love watching authors do their strange-historical-novel thing. A few recents that spring to mind include ISADORA, VISIBLE EMPIRE, AMERICA WAS HARD TO FIND, and now COSTALEGRE. Maum takes the story of the Guggenheims fleeing Europe before WWII to set up a surrealist enclave on the Pacific coast of Mexico, changes a few things (including names), and boils it all down into the diary of the daughter -- our fictionalized Pegeen Guggenheim, Lara Calaway -- whose insights are searing, funny, and altogether perfectly rendered. (Note: this was a fun book to read interspersed w/ Tove Jansson's THE SUMMER BOOK, fwiw)
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  • Sharon
    January 1, 1970
    This short novel is a stunner. Inspired by the complex relationship between art (and artist) collector Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter, Maum creates a vivid and striking voice in Lara, a precocious and lonely girl coming of age in a tumultuous time. Despite the quick read, Lara will stay with you.This ARC was provided by Tin House Books/Norton, in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Kim McGee
    January 1, 1970
    Lara has been whisked away to Mexico with her eccentric mother and her band of artist outcasts. In the lush jungle, this unlikely group of artists continues to create and complain, a bit lost after being forced out of Nazi Europe. Lara is our teen narrator and she navigates through her growing awareness of her own strengths and weaknesses and her ever distancing relationship with her mother. As she struggles to find herself and find her place among the artists, what she really is searching for i Lara has been whisked away to Mexico with her eccentric mother and her band of artist outcasts. In the lush jungle, this unlikely group of artists continues to create and complain, a bit lost after being forced out of Nazi Europe. Lara is our teen narrator and she navigates through her growing awareness of her own strengths and weaknesses and her ever distancing relationship with her mother. As she struggles to find herself and find her place among the artists, what she really is searching for is love and identity. The book is a continuous parallel between the calm and the violent. The jungle is calm and beautiful as a subject for art but hides deadly plants and animals as is the household where the artists and Mumma lash out in their frustration and art but the quiet ones are the people whose approval and attention matter the most to Lara. Lara is suspended between childhood with a total lack of supervision and attention and the adult world of love and the freedom to create. Based on true people and events, this slim novel speaks volumes. My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.
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  • Jessica Klahr
    January 1, 1970
    I was in just the right mood for this quick, smart, and funny novel and I absolutely loved it. I liked that the concept was really honed in on and we only got the bare bones of the group of artists and their tribulations in Mexico; things could have easily veered into the overly historically informative and complicated but there was a fine balance. Lara was a good choice for the point of view character. We got to experience the landscape and the people with her and learn as we went along. There I was in just the right mood for this quick, smart, and funny novel and I absolutely loved it. I liked that the concept was really honed in on and we only got the bare bones of the group of artists and their tribulations in Mexico; things could have easily veered into the overly historically informative and complicated but there was a fine balance. Lara was a good choice for the point of view character. We got to experience the landscape and the people with her and learn as we went along. There were quite a few artists to keep track and but they were all distinct enough that I never got confused. The dialogue was witty and really captured these people and this time. I liked Lara’s relationship with Jack and how it contrasted with that of the one with her mother. Leaving things semi open ended also left me feeling the effect that the story would still go on. The almost hybrid elements of the story were also well done, where we got to see dispatches from Lara’s journals and letters and drawings, as well as excerpts from her reading. This was such a good book that I almost wish it was a little longer, but it accomplished so much with such a low page count that I understand that it works best like this. Thank you to the Tin House Galley Club for sending me an early copy of what is destined to be one of my favorite books of the summer.
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  • Vincent Scarpa
    January 1, 1970
    “The surrealists think that passion is important, that nightmares are important. But they don’t value simplicity, which is how I think of love. This patient, tense, and quiet thing that is leaving someone alone.”A new novel from Courtney Maum is always cause for celebration. This might be her finest yet. Compulsively readable, fiercely intelligent, with a cast of unforgettable characters. You’ll want to add this to your list!
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  • Jamie
    January 1, 1970
    As with every Tin House book I've ever read, this novel does not disappoint. Strange and atmospheric, I fell into the world of this young girl whose life is a privileged tragedy. Living in a world of art and culture doesn't mean anything to her except loneliness. Working in the arts world, I LOVE the portrayal of these "artists". So biting and sharp. This is a fiesty little novel that packs a big punch.
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  • Courtney Landis
    January 1, 1970
    Costalegre is loosely based on the story of Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter, who I didn’t really know anything about besides the association with the art museum. Guggenheim was a sort-of-boho patroness of the arts in the early 20th century, and in the 30’s during Hitler’s rise to power helped several of her artist friends that had been marked as “cultural degenerates” escape the continent. In Costalegre, Leonora has taken a boatload of Dadaists and surrealists to Costalegre Mexico, along with Costalegre is loosely based on the story of Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter, who I didn’t really know anything about besides the association with the art museum. Guggenheim was a sort-of-boho patroness of the arts in the early 20th century, and in the 30’s during Hitler’s rise to power helped several of her artist friends that had been marked as “cultural degenerates” escape the continent. In Costalegre, Leonora has taken a boatload of Dadaists and surrealists to Costalegre Mexico, along with her 15-year-old daughter, Lara. The book is told from Lara’s point of view, in diary entries and a few letters.Costalegre is a really interesting symbiosis of characters and place; Lara is isolated and lonely, and finds herself an ocean away from her brother and friend in the hot, humid Mexican jungle in view of a sea that she is forbidden to swim in. The artists and her mother all live in this house, bickering and drinking and trying to out-do one another with who can be the most eccentric. The artists are surrealists and Dadaists, with sculpture and novels and classes on painting one’s true dreams, so even if this isn’t a surreal novel it’s certainly surrealist characters in an almost surreal setting, and it’s a clearly deliberate and interesting choice. However, “the artists” aren’t quite a total joke; while ridiculous, they are refugees, and some of them with real trauma. I'm not an art historian at all, and if asked to name a surrealist artist my list would end at Magritte. Fortunately, this book doesn't rely on an encyclopedic knowledge of art movements; rather, this is a novel of humans.**This book is an ARC provided by Tin House Books as part of their Galley Club for this title. This review and all thoughts are my own.http://www.courtneymlandis.com/blog/b...
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  • Annie
    January 1, 1970
    The author’s note at the end of Courtney Maum’s Costalegre shares the inspiration for the novel. Though the details and many of the names have been altered for this book, the kernel of the story is the life of Peggy Guggenheim. In the late 1930s and during World War II, Guggenheim helped artists to escape from Europe and get set up in America. She bought thousands of dollars worth of art—especially art deemed as “degenerate” by the Third Reich. Costalegre doesn’t tell the story of the woman base The author’s note at the end of Courtney Maum’s Costalegre shares the inspiration for the novel. Though the details and many of the names have been altered for this book, the kernel of the story is the life of Peggy Guggenheim. In the late 1930s and during World War II, Guggenheim helped artists to escape from Europe and get set up in America. She bought thousands of dollars worth of art—especially art deemed as “degenerate” by the Third Reich. Costalegre doesn’t tell the story of the woman based on Guggenheim; rather the woman’s fifteen year-old daughter takes up the reins as narrator to show us what life is like living with a group of people who are all competing to create genuine Surrealist art...Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss, for review consideration.
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  • Kiely Marie
    January 1, 1970
    This book was so stunning, and dreamy, and odd, and was such a poignant story of Surrealist art, World War II, the Mexican jungle, and a teenage girl stuck right in the middle of it. Parts of this book reminded me of Deborah Levy’s HOT MILK, particularly in the dreamy scenery of the hot jungle; other parts reminded me of Dodie Smith’s iconic I CAPTURE THE CASTLE, particularly in its diary format and depiction of absentee parents; most of the rest of the book was something entirely special all on This book was so stunning, and dreamy, and odd, and was such a poignant story of Surrealist art, World War II, the Mexican jungle, and a teenage girl stuck right in the middle of it. Parts of this book reminded me of Deborah Levy’s HOT MILK, particularly in the dreamy scenery of the hot jungle; other parts reminded me of Dodie Smith’s iconic I CAPTURE THE CASTLE, particularly in its diary format and depiction of absentee parents; most of the rest of the book was something entirely special all on its own. Having not known very much about Surrealist art before reading this, it was something quite special and unique to see the personalities behind the quite abstract paintings I learned about in Art History 101 come to life, even if their likenesses are slightly fictionalized. The novel’s overall ideas about art are quite relevant and important, particularly the ideas about artistic competition. Lara as a character was quite lovely, even if her narration became a bit stark and terse at times— I would have liked more about her friend Elizabeth, for instance, or her Real Father and Brother. I also didn’t like the ending— why was it so open? What happened to everyone who went missing? What happened to the Art Boat? What was Lara actually looking for in her relationship (even that’s a strong word) with Jack, and did she achieve it at all? That last question is perhaps my most important— their relationship seemed so odd and out of place, but also seemed very, very important to Lara, particularly in such a brutal landscape, surrounded by very odd people. Jack seemed to be her only lifeline and form of grounding, or else she would float up to the sky with everyone else. The ending bothered me, but I have to have hope that Lara would figure it out. I think that’s what she’d want from a friend, any friend, the friend she so desperately craved, after all. *This novel was graciously gifted to me by Tin House Books in exchange for an honest review!*
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  • Emily Grace
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to Tin House for sending me this ARC. All opinions are my own.Review to come.
  • Under Cover Book Club
    January 1, 1970
    Living an inescapable existence on a beach...with your mother.
  • Lauren
    January 1, 1970
    Reminiscent of The Diary of Anne Frank and Anna Segher's writings in exile (think “The Outing of the Dead Girls”), Courtney Maum's Costalegre is a coming-of-age tale about survival and the desire to be noticed and loved in the most extraordinary of circumstances.It's 1937 and Lara Calaway is in the middle of the Mexican jungle. Her mother, an eccentric American heiress and art collector, is determined to save her favorite artists and large art collection from the Führer, who's deemed almost ever Reminiscent of The Diary of Anne Frank and Anna Segher's writings in exile (think “The Outing of the Dead Girls”), Courtney Maum's Costalegre is a coming-of-age tale about survival and the desire to be noticed and loved in the most extraordinary of circumstances.It's 1937 and Lara Calaway is in the middle of the Mexican jungle. Her mother, an eccentric American heiress and art collector, is determined to save her favorite artists and large art collection from the Führer, who's deemed almost everything modern "degenerate," and they’re waiting for news of the ship carrying her priceless paintings. Thus Lara finds herself sharing a house with a strange cast of characters, artists and pretenders, who talk about the Anschluss and surrealism in equal breaths. Like the young Anne Frank, she reports the petty squabbles and strained relationships of her cohabitants with a guileless honesty. The impending war abroad shimmers beneath the surface of every interaction, but yet seems so far away. Fourteen, at the edge of adulthood, Lara is sensitive, quick-witted, and naïve, and wants nothing more than her mother’s attention and love.Inspired by the lives of Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter Pegeen, Costalegre is full of lively and strange characters and unravels themes of art, love, and exile.
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  • Melissa Anderson
    January 1, 1970
    This is a story told through the eyes of a fourteen year old girl, Lara. It is written as a diary with an occasional page from the Mexican Plants for American Gardens by Cecile Hulse Matchat dotted throughout. Lara has been whisked away by her mother, Leonora, along with her band of surrealist artist outcasts(labeled as 'cultural degenerates ')to Costalegre. Here they will be safe from the war. The setting is just as WW2 is beginning. This story is inspired by the real life relationship between This is a story told through the eyes of a fourteen year old girl, Lara. It is written as a diary with an occasional page from the Mexican Plants for American Gardens by Cecile Hulse Matchat dotted throughout. Lara has been whisked away by her mother, Leonora, along with her band of surrealist artist outcasts(labeled as 'cultural degenerates ')to Costalegre. Here they will be safe from the war. The setting is just as WW2 is beginning. This story is inspired by the real life relationship between the heiress Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter, Pegeen. This is a very strained relationship. Lara often feels neglected and forgotten. Her art is never good enough. So unnoticed that a tutor hadn't even bee provided for her. Though very short, this was a wonderful novel.tue writing captured me on page one. I empathized with Lara over her relationship with her mother. That relationship was so well established early on in the book. The feeling of both wanting to please your mother while at the same time struggling to respect her. Sympathizing with her while wondering how she can behave in such a way. The Leonora character is wild and self involved. All I can say is that I loved this book.
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  • Caroline
    January 1, 1970
    This was such a nice summer read. The main character was so relatable despite her unusual circumstances, and I really enjoyed matching characters' quirks with stories I have heard about various artists. The setting itself was a powerful character in this book, and I loved that it had some real humor despite the tragic nature of the narrator's personal situation and the frightening global situation.
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  • D. Arthur
    January 1, 1970
    Love, love, love this book! I read this in one sitting because I couldn't put it down. The entries in this fictional diary all feel marked by a heady, humid, anticipation, much like the novel's anticipation of the storm to come. Our teenage narrator, Lara, feels authentically adolescent, but never dumbed down or hyper-juvenile. She talks with complex grace about a very genuine desire for love, romantic love, familial love, platonic love. This book is brilliant, dreamy, and packs a punch in a bri Love, love, love this book! I read this in one sitting because I couldn't put it down. The entries in this fictional diary all feel marked by a heady, humid, anticipation, much like the novel's anticipation of the storm to come. Our teenage narrator, Lara, feels authentically adolescent, but never dumbed down or hyper-juvenile. She talks with complex grace about a very genuine desire for love, romantic love, familial love, platonic love. This book is brilliant, dreamy, and packs a punch in a brief package. I also loved the illustrations throughout and the small details of the diary format. While Courtney Maum's books are all wildly different, and this one is her most ambitious yet, they all manage to take complex and dazzling ideas, about art or tech or humanity or love, and pull them into intimately rendered characters.
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  • Lydia A.
    January 1, 1970
    What if you decided to choose your own way? What if you followed the tiger into the woods instead of staying behind? This book was a quick read for me, but I never put it down! It’s deeply full of flora and fauna like a pop up book but for adults! The tension of whether or not a daughter will fall into her mother’s whims or if she will pursue her own life and desires builds so that the tiger in the jungle is more ferocious than expected. This book was magical and uplifting and especially importa What if you decided to choose your own way? What if you followed the tiger into the woods instead of staying behind? This book was a quick read for me, but I never put it down! It’s deeply full of flora and fauna like a pop up book but for adults! The tension of whether or not a daughter will fall into her mother’s whims or if she will pursue her own life and desires builds so that the tiger in the jungle is more ferocious than expected. This book was magical and uplifting and especially important for those who identify with the struggle to adopt a identity while bracing multiple possibilities of what you could have been.
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  • Kristen Brida
    January 1, 1970
    Costalegre by Courtney Maum. It’s 1937: an heiress/modern art collector brings her daughter & a group of artists to Costalegre after Hitler has denounced them as “cultural degenerates” and in direct opposition to his regime.Told through fragments from 14-year old Lara’s diary, this novel explores the relationship between mother & daughter, coming of age in chaotic & fraught times, and coming into one’s art.Costalegre is heartbreaking, searing, and engrossing. Lara’s narration lends i Costalegre by Courtney Maum. It’s 1937: an heiress/modern art collector brings her daughter & a group of artists to Costalegre after Hitler has denounced them as “cultural degenerates” and in direct opposition to his regime.Told through fragments from 14-year old Lara’s diary, this novel explores the relationship between mother & daughter, coming of age in chaotic & fraught times, and coming into one’s art.Costalegre is heartbreaking, searing, and engrossing. Lara’s narration lends itself to explosive intimacy through coupling strange/wonderful images with such exact emotion. Although this novel ended a bit abruptly for me, that ending paragraph was so beautiful & encapsulated the turbulence present, I was still satisfied. I couldn’t help but read this novel with such admiration & heartbreak.-Note I received a copy of this novel from Tin House in exchange for an unbiased review.
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  • Adrien
    January 1, 1970
    "I wish that I could scream until my pores were tentacles..." Costalegre is an artistically written story based on Leonora, a fictional Peggy Guggenheim, and her relationship with the artists she saved and protected. It is told by Leonora's daughter, Lara, a fictional Pegreen Vail Guggenheim during 1937 when European surrealist and dada artists' lives were in danger.An eccentric group of artists sail to Mexico and live along with Lara and her mother. Lara misses her brother and her father who re "I wish that I could scream until my pores were tentacles..." Costalegre is an artistically written story based on Leonora, a fictional Peggy Guggenheim, and her relationship with the artists she saved and protected. It is told by Leonora's daughter, Lara, a fictional Pegreen Vail Guggenheim during 1937 when European surrealist and dada artists' lives were in danger.An eccentric group of artists sail to Mexico and live along with Lara and her mother. Lara misses her brother and her father who remained in Switzerland. She misses going to school. As chaos unfolds around her, Lara yearns for her mother's attentions.I love the idea that "fact and fiction tussle" within Costalegre.
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  • Caleb Masters
    January 1, 1970
    Like pretty much everything Tin House publishes, Courtney Maum’s Costalegre is an innovative, captivating, and beautifully written novel. I loved the voice of Lara, the fourteen-year-old narrator, and I loved experiencing her world of eclectic artists, fleeing pre-WWII Germany, in a commune in the jungles of Mexico. Just strange enough and written with the passion and energy of its teenage protagonist, Costalegre is a brief, memorable, often both humorous and heartbreaking look at a young girl f Like pretty much everything Tin House publishes, Courtney Maum’s Costalegre is an innovative, captivating, and beautifully written novel. I loved the voice of Lara, the fourteen-year-old narrator, and I loved experiencing her world of eclectic artists, fleeing pre-WWII Germany, in a commune in the jungles of Mexico. Just strange enough and written with the passion and energy of its teenage protagonist, Costalegre is a brief, memorable, often both humorous and heartbreaking look at a young girl finding her meaning in the world. 3.5 stars
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  • Halle Mahoney
    January 1, 1970
    I picked this one up as a Blind Date with a book at my local bookstore. The description sounded interesting but I found myself having to really concentrate when reading this book. It felt very fragmented and I really felt there wasn’t really a storyline. The writing was good but the book’s overall structure didn’t really make sense.
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  • Miriam Vance
    January 1, 1970
    A lovely little novel with literary punch and surreal, dreamlike quality. I felt for Lara at every minute.
  • Joanna
    January 1, 1970
    Loved this read. It was in a casual diary format which made the character so relatable. And the description of the environment was so vivid!
  • Bookreporter.com Historical Fiction
    January 1, 1970
    Someone with a far greater knowledge of Surrealist and Dadaist art and literature than I have would likely have great fun with Courtney Maum’s new novel, COSTALEGRE, since they’d more easily be able to connect the dots between the fictional characters she has created and their historical antecedents. The good news, however, is that whether or not you’re already familiar with the basis of the book, there’s plenty of historical background, lush and evocative setting, and emotional resonance to sat Someone with a far greater knowledge of Surrealist and Dadaist art and literature than I have would likely have great fun with Courtney Maum’s new novel, COSTALEGRE, since they’d more easily be able to connect the dots between the fictional characters she has created and their historical antecedents. The good news, however, is that whether or not you’re already familiar with the basis of the book, there’s plenty of historical background, lush and evocative setting, and emotional resonance to satisfy any reader.COSTALEGRE is loosely based on the life of the heiress and bohemian art collector and patron Peggy Guggenheim, as well as her daughter, Pegeen. The Peggy Guggenheim character (named Leonora in the book) has just --- in the wake of a rejection of her art collection by the French artistic establishment and in the mounting Nazi threat --- put her sizeable art collection on a ship across the Atlantic and brought a close circle of so-called degenerate artists with her to a remote retreat on the coast of Mexico. In real life, Peggy Guggenheim did something similar, though the Mexican setting is strictly Maum’s imagination at work, creating a verdant yet somehow threatening setting that helps isolate her characters and raise their emotional stakes.Leonora’s daughter, Lara, is 15 as the novel’s events unfold. She fashions herself something of an artist as well, although virtually none of the artists who have accompanied Lara and her mother to Mexico take Lara or her artistic ambitions at all seriously. Unlike the artists, who are nearly all painfully self-absorbed, Lara takes it upon herself to get to know the servants who work at the home where they’re staying, and to study the Spanish language as well as the flora and fauna of the surrounding jungle. Much as she’s cognizant of her immediate surroundings in a way that the adults in her circle are not, she is also uneasily aware of the growing tensions and danger in Europe, though her fears stem in large part from uncertainty about the safety of her father and brother, who are in Switzerland.As the time in Costalegre drags on, as the natural environment feels more and more unnatural and threatening, Lara struggles --- in the pages of the diary that serves as the novel’s narrative structure --- to define herself as an artist, as a nascent adult, and as a daughter despite her mother’s repeated indifference to her well-being or even her safety. Lara is both fascinated by the artists and writers who have formed this insular community and repelled by them, particularly since she recognizes that she can never truly compete with them for her mother’s attention or affection. “I hope that ship sinks, I hope it burns, that’s the only thing there is,” Lara writes in her diary. “I’d sink her awful collection, and then what would she do? There’d be nothing left to fawn over and boast about and move around the world for and maybe she would be emptied enough to finally mother me.”COSTALEGRE is a fascinating novel, not only because of its exploration of a particular artistic and historic moment, but also as a portrait of a young woman desperately trying to find herself in relation to others but encountering disillusion at every turn. Lara’s observations, musings, dreams and sketches give readers a glimpse of her inner life that, one realizes, offers far more insight into this character than Lara’s mother ever even cared to have.Reviewed by Norah Piehl
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