cover image Costalegre


Courtney Maum. Tin House, $19.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-947793-36-1

Maum’s third novel (after Touch) is a rich and delectable tale of art, love, and war. The narrative, which is based on Peggy Guggenheim and her set, is enlivened by 14-year-old narrator Lara, who elevates the book from juicy gossip to a beautiful meditation. The year is 1937 and Leonora Calaway, a wealthy art collector, has gathered up the artists “the Führer decided were the most degenerate in Europe” and sailed to Costalegre in Mexico, where Surrealists and Dadaists, writers and painters, all live together to wait out the coming war. Her neglected daughter, Lara, always a tag-along on her mother’s globe-hopping adventures and the only child to be found in Costalegre, writes in her diary that she’s “burning up inside to have someone just for me.” As the Mexican heat and the lack of news take their toll, a new figure, Dadaist sculptor Jack Klinger, arrives, charming everyone, especially Lara, who feels, like the artists, drawn to him. The highlight is Lara, whose searching intelligence and insightful observations anchor the story. This is a fascinating, lively, and exquisitely crafted novel. [em](July) [/em]