Editor's Choice

La Belle SauvageClick for more information including
an excerpt and read-alike recommendations

by Philip Pullman


Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy….

Malcolm's parents run an inn called The Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his daemon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm catches wind of something new: intrigue.

He finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust—and the spy it was intended for finds him.

When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, he sees suspicious characters everywhere: the explorer Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; a gyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a daemon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl—just a baby—named Lyra.

Lyra is the kind of person who draws people in like magnets. And Malcolm will brave any danger, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through the storm.

BookBrowse Review

Voted 2017 Best Young Adult Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I heard that Philip Pullman would be revisiting the world he brought to life in the His Dark Materials series – not as a prequel or sequel series, but what he refers to as an "equel" – a series that is meant to stand on its own, yet as companion to the first. While I'm not sure if I agree that this is what he has achieved with the first installment of the new trilogy, I can say with certainty that La Belle Sauvage has left me excited for all that might come next in the series.

La Belle Sauvage is set in the same alternative universe as the earlier trilogy, and tells the story of how Lyra Belacqua - the protagonist in the first series - came to reside at Jordon College at Oxford University. While the beloved heroine is in the text, she is just a baby. It is the need to protect Lyra that drives the new young protagonists Malcolm Polstead and Alice Parslow on their epic journey from Godstow Priory to Oxford by canoe in a flood.

The book pulls from multiple literary styles: part spy novel, part bildungsroman, part adventure or quest tale, then, suddenly, glimpses of magical realism and embedded other-worlds. And while any one of these stylistic choices could have lent a very fascinating take on the narrative, there were places in which this mix of styles, combined with the detail paid to setting and sense of place, served to disrupt the pacing. As in the earlier series, the setting does help to draw the reader in, but here it is not seen through Lyra's eyes and is, instead, viewed from a wider, more distant lens, which made it distracting. So much detail is given that, at times, I felt my interest fading; it was less of a map leading me to the heart of the narrative and more like an inside conversation with those who know and love Oxford, leaving the rest of us who have never been there trying to keep apace with the conversation. The other drawback for me was that, at times, it felt like instead of letting the narrative lead him freely, Pullman was trying to tie up too many loose ends from the first series with regard to how Lyra, as a little girl, came to be living amongst the scholars.

That being said, this is a charming fantasy. Alice has quickly become one of my favorite characters ever written, and Pullman shows us again that he is a master of writing, not only for children, but for anyone. All readers who come to his books will find something for them. It is not a text that can be easily simplified to mean any one thing, and I am certain that those who come to this series first, and then look to read His Dark Materials, will have an utterly different experience. That is the mark of a good fantasy; it should be approachable for all, but not one-size-fits-all in what a reader might take from it. The narrative should provide us each with our own journey into our perceptions of the world. In a time of prescriptive fantasies, Pullman has once again given us an adventure that, for adults, appeals to the myriad complicated emotions we once had when we were young.

Book reviewed by Michelle Anya Anjirbag

Beyond the Book:
Godstow Abbey

Godstow AbbeyIn his first trilogy, His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman brings readers into the story through an intense use of space; he gives us a fantastical Oxford, but described in such a way that readers could visit the real place and trace Lyra's adventures around the city and colleges and thus bring the fantasy world into their own. Pullman's new book, La Belle Sauvage is no different; Godstow Priory, which plays such a large role in shaping the plot and setting of the text, is based on a real place: the Godstow Abbey or Nunnery. The Trout Inn is also real.

Godstow Abbey WindowGodstow is a hamlet on the River Thames about 2.5 miles northwest of the center of modern day Oxford. The abbey (in our world, at least) was built in the 1130s. Founded by Edith of Winchester, sometimes known as Dame Ediva (widow of Sir William Launceline of Winchester), it was built on what was then a small island between two streams that ran into the Thames. According to local tradition, Edith had a vision in which she was told to go live near Oxford and wait for a sign from God directing her to build a place in his name. One night while staying at Binsey, a village in Oxfordshire, she heard a voice tell her to go where the light from heaven reached the ground and build a nunnery for 24 gentlewomen. The light she saw was over Godstow, so she went to King Henry I with her vision to ask for approval for the new nunnery. It became a Benedictine nunnery for aristocratic ladies, and enjoyed patronage from many noble families, including the royal family. Rosamund Clifford, who was King Henry II's mistress for many years, is buried there.

The abbey was entered through a two-story gatehouse with two gates: a large one for carts and a smaller one for foot traffic. Inside were multiple buildings, including a guest house, nunnery, a priest's lodging, St. Thomas's chapel which was used by the servants at the abbey, the abbey church and cloisters.

George Price Bryce

Henry VIII, through Parliament and the Second Act of Dissolution, dissolved the abbey in 1539. His physician, George Owen, then converted it into Godstow House, which was occupied by Owen's descendants until 1645. Though in Pullman's book it is ruined by a flood, in our world the buildings were damaged during the English Civil War, after which they fell into disrepair as locals removed and repurposed the stone into other buildings. However, remnants of Godstow Abbey can still be seen, and Pullman's association with it is not its only artistic connection; the Godstow site was painted by George Price Boyce, a Victorian Pre-Raphaelite watercolor painter; and Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, brought the Liddell sisters to Godstow for picnics and river trips - where the ideas for Alice in Wonderland are said to have been formed. It was also well known to such Oxford writers as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien who frequently traversed the footpath that runs past it.

The trout InnSince 1924 the site has been held in trust by Oxford University and can be visited easily from central Oxford. Just as in Pullman's book, it sits opposite The Trout Inn - a popular and active pub – directly on the Thames Path, a 184-mile hiking and biking trail that follows the Thames from its source in the Cotswolds through London to the sea.

Remains of Godstow Abbey and its best preserved window, both courtesy of www.britainexpress.com
George Price Boyce's Godstow Nunnery, Oxfordshire, 1862, courtesy of arthistory.wisc.edu
The Trout Inn, courtesy of www.dailyinfo.co.uk

ConvictionClick for more information including
an excerpt and read-alike recommendations

by Denise Mina


The day Anna McDonald's quiet, respectable life explodes starts off like all the days before: Packing up the kids for school, making breakfast, listening to yet another true crime podcast. Then her husband comes downstairs with an announcement, and Anna is suddenly, shockingly alone.

Reeling, desperate for distraction, Anna returns to the podcast. Other people's problems are much better than one's own - a sunken yacht, a murdered family, a hint of international conspiracy. But this case actually is Anna's problem. She knows one of the victims from an earlier life, a life she's taken great pains to leave behind. And she is convinced that she knows what really happened.

Then an unexpected visitor arrives on her front stoop, a meddling neighbor intervenes, and life as Anna knows it is well and truly over. The devils of her past are awakened - and in hot pursuit. Convinced she has no other options, she goes on the run, and in pursuit of the truth, with a washed-up musician at her side and the podcast as her guide.

BookBrowse Review

Scottish author Denise Mina's latest novel, Conviction, is a fast-paced thriller narrated by Anna, a smart and sassy podcast addict with a mysterious past. While listening to a true-crime story she realizes that she knows its subject, Leon Parker (thought to have murdered his two children and committed suicide). The podcasts initially serve as a distraction from her failing marriage until a coincidence accidentally shines a light on her life and forces her to flee her home. She continues to listen to the episodes while on the run, and the deeper immersed she becomes in subsequent broadcasts the more convinced she is that those hunting for her are the same people that killed Parker and his family. She determines that she needs to track down the true killer to protect herself and her two daughters from becoming victims themselves.

Inserting the text of fictional podcasts throughout the novel to drive the plot puts a clever twist on a well-explored genre. The episodic nature of the medium works well in this context; a chapter of the novel may contain the text of a single broadcast, simultaneously revealing new information to both the book's heroine and its readers, ramping up the tension and setting a direction for Anna's next move.

The most appealing aspect of the novel, though, is its protagonist; she's an absolutely intriguing character. Readers learn in the first pages that Anna's whole life, including her identity, is based on lies.

Just tell the truth. I've said that to my own kids. What a ridiculous thing to teach children. No one wants to hear it. There has to be a reason to tell the truth. I stopped some time ago, and let me tell you, it was great. Best decision I ever made. Lie and lie again, make up a name, a background, your likes and dislikes, just fabricate the whole thing. So much more rational. But I'm telling you the truth in this book. There's a very good reason for that.

Although the book is ostensibly about solving the murders, most of the plot revolves around Anna gradually revealing why she's running from her past and how her history connects her to the crime - a more compelling thread than her investigation of the killings. The narration, too, is a highlight, with Anna's wry sense of humor evident throughout. As she enlists the help of a friend, she records this exchange:

"There's no evidence anyone is after us, Anna, a lot has happened to you, I'm not saying it hasn't, but maybe you're also just a bit paranoid?" I didn't know what to say to that. I am paranoid but men have tried to kill me and that does tend to make you paranoid.

There were a few stylistic elements that did detract from my overall enjoyment. The author often has Anna drop a reference to her past out of nowhere, with no connection to what readers have already been told. Several times I had a "Wait… what?" reaction, and I had to back up to see if I'd missed something. Also, almost every chapter ends with an ominous one- or two-sentence cliffhanger; for example, a chapter about Anna's daily routine on a "mundane suburban Monday" concludes with the sentence, "I should have stayed under the sea with the ghosts." Coupled with the very short chapters I felt the technique was a blatant attempt to artificially create a page-turner, and it got old after a while. Lastly, many parts of the plot required a suspension of disbelief, almost-but-not-quite to the point where I found the whole thing too incredible. The protagonist's narration was captivating, however, and in the end that's what kept me engaged.

I found Conviction to be a light, entertaining read that would likely appeal to fans of thrillers, particularly those who prefer strong, interesting female protagonists.

Book reviewed by Kim Kovacs

Beyond the Book:
A Brief History of Podcasts

podcast The action in Denise Mina's novel Conviction is set in motion when the protagonist listens to a true-crime podcast.

Serial audio broadcasts have existed for more than a century; many of us remember gathering around our radios each week to listen to favorite shows, or remember parents or grandparents doing so. In many ways listening to podcasts is a similar experience – they're basically audio shows which can be downloaded to portable devices and be heard on-demand.

The idea first arose at a meeting in 2000 between MTV video jockey Adam Curry and his friend Dave Winer. Curry was looking for a way to distribute video across the Internet but Winer dissuaded him; at the time (pre-Broadband) it would take longer to download a video clip than to watch it, and even then, the quality would be poor. Curry also wanted to have the ability to subscribe to content and have it be automatically downloaded. They decided the process needed three elements: software to create content, software to read the content, and a way to search for content. Each worked on all three aspects of the problem, but a breakthrough occurred in 2004 when Curry created a simple AppleScript program that would download Internet radio broadcasts to his iPod (hence the name "podcast"). The technology immediately took off within the Open Source programming community, with multiple developers improving all aspects of podcasting over the ensuing years.

The first true podcast was launched by Curry in 2004. Called Daily Source Code, content was aimed at software coders and included discussions about the development of this new technology. (Curry continues to host Daily Source Code biweekly, as of July 2019). Podcasting made another leap forward when Apple iTunes added support for the format in 2005, giving listeners an easy way to enjoy podcasts.

Currently podcasts are free from government regulation; you don't need to buy a license to broadcast, nor do you need to conform to the FCC's decency standards. This has resulted in a vast array of content of mixed quality, since anyone with a smart device, a microphone and an Internet connection can create a podcast. Podcasts may be created to entertain, broadcast news and opinions, educate and train…as well as pretty much any other use you can think of. Most broadcasters are amateur, but many large corporations (GM, Heineken) and commercial media (NPR, iHeartRadio) have started to develop their own shows, or repurpose existing content, in response to podcasts' growing popularity with the public.

All modern smartphones and computers come with the built-in ability to download and play podcasts, and there are many apps out there as well (some free, some not). Smart speakers such as Amazon's Alexa and Google Home can be set up to download and play podcasts as well. Many people find content based on recommendations from others, and there are also podcasts available for free from Google and Apple, right from their app stores. While most podcasts remain available without a fee, recently subscription services have begun to appear, offering premium content to listeners for a small monthly fee.

As of June 2019, it's estimated that there are over 750,000 shows, which combined have produced over 30 million episodes available for download. According to Edison Research and Trident Digital's Infinite Dial 2019 report, large segments of the American population are familiar with podcasts. Some interesting statistics include:

  • 51% of Americans have listened to a podcast – up from 44% in 2018. (South Korea leads the world in podcast consumption with 58% of the population saying they have listened to one.)
  • 32% have listened to a podcast in the last month – up from 26% in 2018
  • 70% are familiar with the term "podcasting" – up from 64% in 2018
  • 22% listen to podcasts weekly – up from 17% in 2018
  • 56% of listeners are male
  • Comedy is the most popular genre in the US, followed by education and news

Photo of podcast equipment, courtesy of Public Domain Pictures

Dread NationClick for more information including
an excerpt and read-alike recommendations

by Justina Ireland


Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania - derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever.

In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.

But there are also opportunities - and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It's a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society's expectations.

But that's not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston's School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn't pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose.

But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. 

And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

BookBrowse Review

The war between the states is over and, instead, a very different battle is being waged for the future of the United States – or at least it is in the stunning, complex and adventurous Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. Slavery may be over, but Native Americans and Black people are subject to the Native and Negro Reeducation Act (NNRA), which sends them to government run schools to defend white people in the eastern cities from the rising undead. Yes, here the dead don't stay dead, and the newly "freed" of the post-Civil War nation are sent onto the front lines to put the shamblers – zombies that began to rise first from the battlefields of Gettysburg – down again for good. Jane McKeene, who is mixed race, was sent from her home to Miss Preston's school for attendants to do just that. While there, she discovers that not everything is as it seems. Jane and two unexpected friends – Jackson, known as Red Jack, and Katherine (never Katie) Deveraux – navigate danger political scandals, and the ever-suppressive racially driven dynamics that shape their lives in a way that resonates with modern discussions on similar topics.

The political commentary is deliberate and is both executed and framed well by Ireland. She opens with an author's note discussing this work as a response to what she found implausible in other period-novel rewrites featuring zombies – in her words, "How could women who didn't even dress themselves suddenly become zombie-fighting machines?" However, she goes on to specifically frame the novel as a response to the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, and how that moment changed how many in America viewed the value of others' lives. Where the politicization of the narrative might have become heavy-handed, the alternative history helps to mitigate that. Ireland weaves concern into her characters about who is a fully enfranchised human, whose right to self-determination depends on the whims of others, and the explicit and implicit power dynamics of race relations. They represent various experiences of blackness or otherness in the United States without becoming static representations of those experiences. Her characters are mixed race, of different social backgrounds and life experiences, and embody varied anxieties about the lack of control they have over their futures in a way that feels genuine and approachable.

In addition to the socio-historical context of the content, the writing itself is dynamic, moving between Jane's first-person narration and fragments of letters written between Jane and her mother which feed the backstory of the main narrative without being distracting. The narrative arc is intriguing and brings the heroines in contact with different forms of systematic oppression that they have to manage to survive within. While Jane and Katherine feel approachable as characters, sometimes some of the peripheral characters can feel a touch flat alongside of them.

The combination of period drama, alternative timelines, fantasy elements, zombies and complex socio-historical-cultural contexts makes this novel a welcome departure from other contemporary genre-specific young adult books. Ireland proves that it is possible to write a rollicking fantasy filled with zombies and brave zombie fighters, and also provide readers with substance and thoughtful material that challenges them to re-evaluate how they see the world. Above all, despite, or perhaps, because of its setting, it demands that we ask of our society, if people are not seen as humans, equal under the law and with the same rights to their humanity and personhood, then are they really free?

Book reviewed by Michelle Anya Anjirbag

Beyond the Book:
The Carlisle Indian Industrial School

Carlisle School StudentsThe boarding school in Dread Nation, where children are sent after being taken from their families is based on real schools that existed across the United States. While Miss Preston's, the school in Dread Nation is specifically for girls of color to be combat-trained to fight zombies, in other respects it resembles the Native American boarding schools of the 19th and early 20th centuries. From as early as 1677 settler communities, and then later the United States government, ran boarding schools that were intended to "civilize" indigenous youth through a regulated process of forced assimilation. One of the most infamous of these schools, which informed the author's conception of Miss Preston's, was the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, established in 1879 by Captain Richard H. Pratt in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It is now the US Army's Carlisle Barracks.

In their many iterations, these schools operated on the sentiment "kill the Indian and save the man," well before this remark was read at a convention by Capt. Pratt in 1892. The earliest schools were offshoots of missions in settler communities where local native communities would send children to be educated and, in European eyes, civilized. These were followed by boarding schools on reservations themselves from 1860 onwards, first on the Yakima Indian Reservation in Washington State, where they were intended to solve "the Indian Problem" through education-based assimilation. However, as American expansion continued, on-reservation schools were not considered aggressive enough, and the Carlisle Indian Industrial School became the model for the over 150 schools later opened by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Captain PrattAt these schools, the practice was to strip away any and all bits of culture from the children who were sent there. Their names were changed, their hair was cut, they were forbidden their languages and traditional practices. Conversion to Christianity, and adoption of white food culture and history, and even the imposition of surnames was common, if not required. Those who did not comply faced strict punishments, including food deprivation and corporeal punishment. There were "out-placement" programs as well – hard labor on local farms resembling chattel slavery. Gender equality, which was promoted within many Native tribes, was replaced with white men's vision of the distinctive - and unequal - roles of men and women.

While some children were taken forcibly from their homes and families, it should also be noted that the systematic oppression of Native Americans also meant that in many cases the boarding schools were the only options for families. While many of these schools have been shut down, in some places they remain, to this day, the only option for education on or near certain reservations, and so ironically some tribal nations are fighting to keep them open.

Publicity PhotoThe legacy of these schools scarred many nations and many people and has arguably not only contributed to the decline and disenfranchisement of Native Americans but could be considered genocidal in intention. It is a part of the country's history that should be more closely examined and questioned.

From 1879 until 1918, over 10,000 Native American children from 140 tribes attended Carlisle.
General Pratt and a student at Carlisle.
Pratt's before and after "contrast" photos were sent to officials in Washington, to potential charitable donors and to other reservations to recruit new students.

CostalegreClick for more information including
an excerpt and read-alike recommendations

by Courtney Maum


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. 

BookBrowse Review

The year is 1937 and Hitler is gaining stronger sway over Europe. Chief among the Führer's growing list of targets are the Surrealist and Dadaist artists whose work he deems degenerate. To safeguard the stars of this controversial movement, American socialite Leonora Calaway invites a menagerie of avant-garde painters and writers to join her in her holiday home on the western shore of far-flung, jungle-clad Mexico. Lara, her 15-year-old daughter, is also dragged along.

As the sole child in this unorthodox household, Lara feels isolated amid the lovers quarrels and creative jealousies of idle artists whose volatile passions simmer in the close quarters, monotony and relentless heat of Costalegre. Again and again, she attempts to win the affections of her mother, but Leonora is too busy fawning over her artist friends. Neglected so, Lara finds solace in her diary and forms an unlikely friendship with the reclusive Jack Klinger, an exiled Dadaist sculptor who has become disillusioned by the art world.

Costalegre's central conceit may seem slightly outlandish, but the thrust of the novel is inspired by real events. As Maum expounds in her afterword, Leonora Calaway is loosely based on Peggy Guggenheim (1898–1979), a wealthy art collector who flew a group of artists to New York City to wait out the Second World War. The cast of artists are composites of famed surrealists Max Ernst, André Breton, Djuna Barnes and others. But Maum's project here is less to retell Peggy and co.'s story and more to give voice to the socialite's oft-forgotten daughter Pegeen, who serves as inspiration for Lara.

The plot is spare but its form is endlessly inventive. Maum imbues Lara's diary vignettes with postmodern stylings, offering insight into her young protagonist's mindset by inserting offhand lists; surrealist sketches (both visual and in prose); extracts from botanical books; and a handful of unsent letters addressed to her papa, brother and best friend who remain in war-torn Europe. Through this bricolage we become intimate with all aspects of Lara: her intelligence, artistry, perceptiveness, naivety, hopes and insecurities.

Through Lara's musings, Maum is able to pit ideas about art and freedom of expression as things that should be safeguarded at all costs, against more primal pursuits, such as a child's need for love. Leonora may hope her daughter seizes this rarefied opportunity to learn from the artistic elite and become a "cultured girl," but as Lara posits: "[w]hat am I going to learn? How to be upset with everything and turn things upside down?" In the context of Lara's isolation, art seems frivolous and antithetical to contentment.

The artists themselves come across as a loathsome, vainglorious bunch. Leonora is joined by new husband Konrad Beck, a gold-digging, tantrum-throwing painter who is openly having an affair with the alluring writer "C." Together with the rest of the party, they squander their privileged safety from the ongoing terrors of Europe, documenting their dreams, arguing about the efficiency of the local help, and playing provocative games in the nude.

Notwithstanding her misgivings on the merits of art, Lara yearns "to make something beautiful...that stays with you in that upsetting way," if only for her mother. But Leonora, who is too preoccupied by the fate of a chartered ship transiting her art collection across the Atlantic, remains uninterested. In frustration Lara writes: "I hope that ship sinks, I hope it burns...maybe she would be emptied enough to finally mother me."

As her lonely days roll by, it becomes clear that Lara does not possess the artist's gift for painting. What she fails to recognize however is her natural genius for writing. Lara's passages are pervaded by incisive wit - "I should be an orphan; at least I'd be in school!" - and bursts of beautiful, dreamlike surrealism: "I wish that I could scream until my pores were tentacles and I pulled each and every person down with me until life was soft again."

The needlessly abrupt ending is bound to annoy many, but Costalegre is a dazzling read that deftly questions the modern world's blind obsession with the cult of the artist.

Book reviewed by Dean Muscat

Beyond the Book:
The Life and Art of Pegeen Guggenheim

Black and white pictures of Pegeen Guggenheim painting and posing at an art exhibitionCostalegre's main protagonist Lara Calaway is based on real-life artist Pegeen Vail Guggenheim (1925-1967), daughter of wealthy New York art collector and socialite Peggy Guggenheim (1898–1979). In her afterword, author Courtney Maum leaves a dedication to the not widely known artist: "Pegeen: Your story wasn't told much. I hope you forgive me for giving it a try." Given the notoriety of her mother, her illustrious peers as well as her notable body of work, it's strange that Pegeen is little more than a footnote in the world of modern art.

Born in 1925 in Switzerland, Pegeen was Peggy's second child with her first husband Laurence Vail. She spent much of her childhood living between France and England, and her mother was rarely around. However in 1941, as World War II raged on, Peggy and her new husband, the famous surrealist painter Max Ernst, left Europe to set up home in the United States.

By many accounts Peggy loved her daughter, but she was often absent and the two shared a tempestuous relationship, arguing often. Pegeen began suffering from bouts of severe depression during her adolescent years, which may have been caused by her unstable childhood and the lack of parental attention.

Having been surrounded by Surrealist painters from a young age, Pegeen began dabbling in art in her teens. She quickly developed a unique style of her own, combining elements of surrealism and naïve art. The latter is usually defined as visual art created by artists who lack formal training.

InIn her paintings, Pegeen typically depicts doll-like figures, representing couples and families in affectionate moments (click the image to the right to see a larger version of her painting "In the Park"). Perhaps the recurring theme was Pegeen's way of making up for her own tumultuous youth. But there is also a sense of isolation and sadness juxtaposed against the bright, almost carnivalesque colors and settings. The characters themselves are often identifiable as Pegeen herself, her mother, her two husbands (French painter Jean Hélion and the English painter Ralph Rumney) and her children.

Unlike fictional mother Leonora in Costalegre, Peggy was proud and supportive of her daughter's work. She often displayed Pegeen's art in her very own Art of This Century gallery in Manhattan. Pegeen's work was also exhibited across Europe and the US, where it was shown alongside pieces by Leonora Carrington and Frida Kahlo, among others.

Tragically, Pegeen continued to suffer from depression her entire life. She died on March 1st 1967, aged 41, having overdosed on medication in her Paris apartment. While the circumstances remain unclear, her mother never accepted her death as a suicide.

Pegeen Guggenheim and "In the Park" (1953) by Pegeen Guggenheim, courtesy of An Exploration of Ideas

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.