Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Review: Leonora in the Morning Light by Michaela Carter


Title: Leonora in the Morning Light
Author: Michaela Carter
Published: April 2021, Avid Reader Press
Format: ARC Paperback, 416 pages
Source: Publisher

For fans of Amy Bloom’s White Houses and Colm Tóibín’s The Master, a page-turning novel about Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington and the art, drama, and romance that defined her coming-of-age during World War II.

1940. A train carrying exiled German prisoners from a labor camp arrives in southern France. Within moments, word spreads that Nazi capture is imminent, and the men flee for the woods, desperate to disappear across the Spanish border. One stays behind, determined to ride the train until he reaches home, to find a woman he refers to simply as “her.”

1937. Leonora Carrington is a twenty-year-old British socialite and painter dreaming of independence when she meets Max Ernst, an older, married artist whose work has captivated Europe. She follows him to Paris, into the vibrant revolutionary world of studios and cafes where rising visionaries of the Surrealist movement like Andre Breton, Pablo Picasso, Lee Miller, Man Ray, and Salvador Dali are challenging conventional approaches to art and life. Inspired by their freedom, Leonora begins to experiment with her own work, translating vivid stories of her youth onto canvas and gaining recognition under her own name. It is a bright and glorious age of enlightenment—until the shadow of war looms over Europe and headlines emerge denouncing Max and his circle as “degenerates,” leading to his arrest and imprisonment. Left along as occupation spreads throughout the countryside, Leonora battles terrifying circumstances to survive, reawakening past demons that threaten to consume her.

As Leonora and Max embark on remarkable journeys together and apart, the full story of their tumultuous and passionate love affair unfolds, spanning time and borders as they seek to reunite and reclaim their creative power in a world shattered by war. When their paths cross with Peggy Guggenheim, an art collector and socialite working to help artists escape to America, nothing will be the same.

Based on true events and historical figures, Leonora in the Morning Light is an unforgettable story of love, art, and destiny that restores a twentieth-century heroine to her rightful place in our collective imagination.


My thoughts:  When I first heard about this novel, I was intrigued and I'm glad I decided to read it. I love historical fiction and love learning about new people and that's exactly what I got from this book.

I will be the first to admit that I had no idea who Leonora Carrington was prior to reading this book but I found myself completely drawn in to this story once I started reading it. I loved how the author was able to give us so much detail and while I know there was some blending of fact and fiction - this is historical fiction after all - I still feel as if I learned quite a bit. 

I think the author really highlighted quite well just what life was like for artists during WWII. It wasn't as if they were victims persay, yet they were still considered outcasts. I feel I could experience their lives as artists, the struggles they had due to their lifestyle as well as living in Europe during WWII. 

I also appreciated learning a bit about surrealist artists and their work. Again, not knowing much about art and the art world, I found this to be quite interesting. Being in their world for just a little while was quite a trip. Even the writing in certain sections had a dreamlike quality to it, which certainly fit the surrealism theme.

This book spans genres - touching on both historical fiction and art history and I definitely felt like I walked away learning quite a bit. I enjoyed the book quite a lot and now am itching to go visit a museum to see some of Leonora's works of art. I love when I read something that leaves me wanting more. Don't you?


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