Early this summer, Tin House offered a few early readers a glimpse at Courtney Maum’s latest novel Costalegre. It’s been praised by writers like Laura Van Den Berg as “a high wire act that dazzles and devastates”; Samantha Hunt calls it “a brew of careless Bohemians, Führers and failed art students, negligent mothers and missing museums . . . as heady, delirious and heart-breaking as a young girl just beginning to fall in love with our world.” And, in the words of the starred review in Publishers Weekly, Costalegre is “A rich and delectable tale of art, love, and war. . . . This is a fascinating, lively, and exquisitely crafted novel.”
In 1937, war menaces Europe and Hitler’s list of “cultural degenerates” threatens the visionaries whose work is deemed antithetical to the new regime. To protect her favorite art (and artists), an impetuous art-collecting heiress named Leonora Calaway spirits an elite group of surrealists away to Costalegre, a mysterious resort deep in the Mexican jungle. However, a sojourn with surrealists is hardly likely to relieve the deep sense of creative alienation and intellectual isolation felt by Leonora’s neglected daughter Lara. Through her diary entries, letters, sketches, and asides, Lara paints a precocious portrait of loneliness, longing, and a teenager’s detached amusement as the adults around her struggle to reconcile artistic ideals with painful political realities.
In the words of R. O. Kwon, “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.” Check out what our Galley Club Members thought below!
Do you have a favorite line from Costalegre?
- “What if I held everything inside of me? What if you couldn’t tell which way my tracks went?”
- “Konrad told my mother Europe will go to war over bad watercolors.”
- “I wish I were a mermaid. I wish that I could swim. 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. And then I would come up on the shore and I’d be human. And I’d know where to go.”
- “I have known chaos, but I’ve never known this chaos”
- “A pen in hand tempts misery from its shadows.”
- “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.”
- “The stories for the children are the saddest ones of all.”
- “When I think of swimming underwater, I think of swimming through shattered wineglasses and the twisting, slow cravats.”
- “I think how nice it would be to have someone to hold you and tell all your secrets to, instead of you, small diary, who has no arms at all.”
- “I am just intelligent enough to realize that Jack hasn’t asked after me, and if there is one thing I’ve learned from watching mother it is that when you’re not wanted, you’re not asked.”
- “When people don’t say anything, it’s because they have something to say.”
- “You try to pause creation, but every night we dream!”
- “The closer my life gets to something consequential, there’s always a reason, decorum, history, a suggestion to turn back.”
- “I’ve spent my whole life agreeing that I was delicate, and what has come of that?”
- “It always made me nervous, looking for something that someone already sees. It’s like you have to find it quickly, lest they think you foolish, and there is that odd sensation while they are waiting for your eyes to capture what theirs have already seized.”
If you liked Costalegre, you’ll also like ____.
- Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
- I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
- The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
- The Third Hotel by Laura Van Den Berg
- Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
- Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
- Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
- My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
- The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
- The Seas by Samantha Hunt
- The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon
- Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt
- The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer
- No One Is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel
- Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
- Florida by Lauren Groff
- Fen by Daisy Johnson
- Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
- Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey
- The Double Life of Liliane by Lily Tuck
- Self Portrait with Boy by Rachel Lyon
- The First Book of Calamity Leek by Paula Lichtarowicz
Thanks to our wonderful Galley Club members for exploring Costalegre with us. Interested in being part of Galley Club? We’ll announce the next Galley Club for Jeannie Vanasco’s gripping memoir Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was A Girl on social media in a few short weeks, with instructions on how to enter.
Infographics by Jakob Vala.