Summary and book reviews of Costalegre by Courtney Maum

Costalegre

by Courtney Maum

Costalegre by Courtney Maum X
Costalegre by Courtney Maum
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Jul 2019, 240 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Dean Muscat
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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.

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. 

Lunes

Nothing good can come from lunch. This is one of mother's sayings, but Jack could only come for lunch, and men can't fish at night. So everyone assembled at two thirty, pulled from work, or hate.

We were back to stagnancy. The heat, as yet unbroken; the news, no news; the rain that teased to fall at any time, and then (truly teasing) didn't.

Over the weekend, another horse gone from the stables. At night there are dark sounds, like a kind of heaving. Not neighs or whimpers, these are the cries of animals who are going to escape.

When Jack arrived for luncheon, even his own horse was like something tracked. Ears pinned, his bead eyes wide. Nostrils huge and desperate. No good can come at day. Konrad found out that mother saw the painting and had been complimenting him to everyone. Boasting that he'd "returned." As a punishment, he has stopped working, or he has been unable to. He said he took a knife to the canvas, but I don't think he did. A knife to mother is more likely, now ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The plot is pretty spare but its form is endlessly inventive. Maum imbues Lara's diary vignettes with postmodern stylings, offering insight into her young protagonist's mindset. Through this bricolage we become intimate with all of Lara: her intelligence, artistry, perceptiveness, naivety, hopes and insecurities. Costalegre is a dazzling read that deftly questions the modern world's blind obsession with the cult of the artist.   (Reviewed by Dean Muscat).

Full Review (676 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[A] rich and delectable tale of art, love, and war...The highlight is Lara, whose searching intelligence and insightful observations anchor the story. This is a fascinating, lively, and exquisitely crafted novel.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A lush chronicle of wealth, art, adventure, loneliness, love, and folly told by a narrator you won't be able to forget.

Author Blurb R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries
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.

Author Blurb Julie Buntin, author of Marlena
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.

Author Blurb Samantha Hunt, author of The Dark Dark
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.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

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 ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Courtney Maum

If you liked Costalegre, try these:

  • Delayed Rays of a Star jacket

    Delayed Rays of a Star

    by Amanda Lee Koe

    Published 2019

    About this book

    A dazzling debut novel following the lives of three groundbreaking women - Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong, and Leni Riefenstahl - cinema legends who lit up the twentieth century.

  • American Princess jacket

    American Princess

    by Stephanie Marie Thornton

    Published 2019

    About this book

    "Presidential darling, America's sweetheart, national rebel: Teddy Roosevelt's swashbuckling daughter Alice springs to life in this raucous anthem to a remarkable woman."' - Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Everything Inside
    Everything Inside
    by Edwidge Danticat
    Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American writer, and Haiti looms large as a presence in this ...
  • Book Jacket: The Beekeeper of Aleppo
    The Beekeeper of Aleppo
    by Christy Lefteri
    In Christy Lefteri's sophomore novel, The Beekeeper of Aleppo, the author introduces readers to ...
  • Book Jacket: Marilou Is Everywhere
    Marilou Is Everywhere
    by Sarah Elaine Smith
    "The point is that at that moment in my life," writes the narrator of Sarah Elaine Smith's debut ...
  • Book Jacket: Let's Call It a Doomsday
    Let's Call It a Doomsday
    by Katie Henry
    However the world will end, Ellis Kimball is ready for it. Her obsessive stash of survivalist ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Secrets We Kept
    by Lara Prescott

    Reese Witherspoon's Sept Book Club Pick!
    "This is the rare page-turner with prose that’s as wily as its plot."—EW
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Yale Needs Women
    by Anne Gardiner Perkins

    A tale of courage in the face of arrogance that remains eerily relevant on U.S. campuses today.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
Today We Go Home
by Kelli Estes

Illuminating and deeply human, Today We Go Home shines a light on the brave military women of the past and present.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Chase Darkness with Me

How One True-Crime Writer Started Solving Murders

Have you ever wanted to solve a murder? Gather the clues the police overlooked? Put together the pieces? Identify the suspect?

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

S S A C A Big S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

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.