Leonora Carrington

Effervescent, hilarious and life-affirming.

Marian Leatherby, 92, is given a hearing trumpet only to discover her family wants to pack her off to an old peoples’ home. On arrival, Marian’s dread turns to wonder. The facility comprises a collection of fantastical dwellings in which the larger-than-life residents live. Marian soon becomes embroiled in intrigue, murder and revolt.

Marian is a hugely likeable and funny character, comfortable in her self.

Houses are really bodies. We connect ourselves with walls, roofs, and objects just as we hang on to our livers, skeletons, flesh and bloodstream. I am no beauty, no mirror is necessary to assure me of this absolute fact. Nevertheless I have a death grip on this haggard frame as if it were the limpid body of Venus herself.

The institution she enters is run by the obscure and mysterious Well of Light Brotherhood.

A Brotherhood with the grim knowledge of what is better for other people and the iron determination to better them whether they like it or not.

The reader can only wonder how much of Carrington’s experiences of a convent-school education and a spell in a mental health facility is written in to the Brotherhood.

The question of identity arises time and again. Characters wear disguise, or have hidden identities, and, when in the underworld, Marion must choose between two of her selves.

My attention lapsed mid-way, with the Holy Grail and the Queen Bee nested stories, but overall The Hearing Trumpet is wonderfully surreal and humorous. In spite (because?) of Carrington’s traumatic experiences, her writing inspires with its lust for life.

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