A Novel Inspired By Peggy Guggenheim and Her Daughter

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“Delightful … In Lara, Maum has given a little-considered daughter a more hopeful future.” —Mona Simpson, The New York Times Book Review

“Maum’s slender, intelligent Costalegre is about many things: art as spectacle and art as discipline; life as joke and life as tragedy; the role of unreason in paintings and politics. But most of all, it’s about the youthful desire to be, in Lara’s words, contemplated and considered — to be, in short, loved.” — The Boston Globe

One of Glamour’s Best Books of the Decade and a Best Book of Summer at AM New York, Moda Operandi, GOOP, Publishers Weekly, TIME, Southern Living, and Thrillist.

It is 1937, and Europe is on the brink of war. 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.

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 fifteen-year-old daughter. Forced from a young age to live 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, Lara thinks she might have found the understanding she so badly craves.

Heartbreaking and strange, Costalegre is inspired by the real-life relationship between the heiress Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter, Pegeen. Courtney Maum triumphs with this wildly imaginative and curiously touching story of a privileged teenager who has everything a girl could wish for—except a mother who loves her back.


  • Delightful. . . . In Lara, Maum has given a little-considered daughter a more hopeful future.

    —The New York Times Book Review

  • Taut and lush.

    —Washington Post

  • Reveals the power a mother holds over her daughter.


  • Delivered in spades. Highly recommended.

    —Glamour, Best Books of the Decade

  • Slender, intelligent. . . . A portrait of the young woman amidst the artists.

    —The Boston Globe

  • Beautiful. . . . A story about growing up and looking for love.


  • A whimsical and poignant account of art and self-discovery, explored through the lens of a girl who yearns to be understood.


  • An excellent way to spend a summer weekend.


  • A vividly drawn novel of family, sacrifice, and the limits of understanding.

    —Southern Living

  • A mesmerizing story of alienation, intimacy, and the elusive powers of art.


  • Its charm lies less in its summarizable qualities . . . than in Maum’s superb balance between humor and grief, and her talent for saying just enough, never too much.


  • Compelling. . . . freshly original and unusual.

    —Book Riot

  • Maum’s coming-of-age novel among some of Europe’s elite is heartbreaking in its evocation of a teenage girl whose mother collects artists to save but who ignores the daughter struggling not to drown.

    —Star Tribune

  • An intimate fever dream.

    —Los Angeles Review of Books

  • An arty, lavish novel, Costalegre examines one of the relationships that is often the most surreal to dissect: the one between mother and daughter.


  • A rich and delectable tale of art, love, and war.

    —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

  • A brilliantly arch and haunting novel of privilege and deprivation.


  • Enchanting.

    —Kirkus, Starred Review

  • A soul-searching, atmospheric novel set in a hot, humid climate as torrid as the affairs of the characters who inhabit it.

    —Library Journal

  • 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

  • As heady, delirious, and heartbreaking as a young girl just beginning to fall in love with the world.

    —Samantha Hunt, author of The Seas

  • A spectacular high-wire act that dazzles and devastates.

    —Laura van den Berg, author of The Third Hotel

  • A special book, by a writer who proves on these pages that she can do anything.

    —Julie Buntin, author of Marlena

  • 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

  • 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