The Hearing Trumpet
Leonora Carrington
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The Hearing Trumpet

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  947 ratings  ·  119 reviews
A mystical, surrealistic work of fiction about a 92 year old deaf and toothless, but spritely lady, with an analytical, yet childlike mind. The woman, Marian Leatherby, is sent to live in a "home for elderly ladies" in Spain.

The place used to be an old monastery, and within its walls contains a variety of little houses shaped like anything from a mushroom to a shoe. It is...more
Paperback, 199 pages
Published 1996 by Exact Change (first published 1974)
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Nate D
Jul 11, 2011 Nate D rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: intrepid nonagenarians (and their cats)
Recommended to Nate D by: Riddles of the Sephira

Leonora Carrington died only a month and a half ago at the age of 94, a surrealist and remarkable traveler across the 20th century. Though I only heard about her through a post on the Writers No One Reads tumblr, it seems that she was far from unknown. Here is her epitaph in the Telegraph:

Born in Britain, she eloped with Max Ernst, hung out with Picasso and Dali, fled the Nazis, escaped from a Spanish psychiatric hospital and later settled in Mexico, where she built a reputation as one of the mo
A wonderful beginning quickly plateaued to a cruising altitude of banal and uninspired until the final couple of chapters, when Carrington seemed to shake out of her dithering reverie and started throwing her weight about: but the turgidity of phantasmagorias was simply not enough to save this book from the doldrums.

Mirian Leatherby is 92 and a character: the first chapter had me in stitches: between her ‘gallant’ beard, the crazy concoctions she plots with her friend Carmella who steals the Fre...more
Biddy Boldly Bests Bothersome Bullies Blatantly Backed up by Bubbling Cauldron .

Of Sorts.

Wow. Just wow.

First off. I thought the Leonora Carrington who wrote this was the antebellum painter who befriended gay writer Lytton Strachey and engineered her own unhappy end looking down a shotgun barrel.
Instead, this was the Leonora Carrington who had a torrid love affair with Max Ernst, spent some time in a brutal Spanish mental institution and is still alive in Mexico today. She is also a painter.

I s...more
I don't know where to begin describing this. I feel that knowing anything going in might spoil the craziness of this book. It is well-written, imaginative, and about old ladies.
Interesting post surrealist novel with heroic elderly women as protagonists. I really enjoyed this book and am on the lookout for more writing in this vein. There are far too few novels written about intrepid and cunning elderly ladies.
They say "ignorance is bliss", which seems to be appropriate in this short novel by surrealist artist Leonora Carrington. 92-year-old Marian is gifted a hearing trumpet, only to find out that her son and daughter-in-law are in cahoots in effort to have Marian admitted to a home for old fogies (aka, an institution). It's at the institution where things get wicked crazy and "normalcy" goes completely supernova. Carrington didn't just paint surrealism - she wrote it as well.

For being such a short n...more
Nesa Sivagnanam
The Hearing Trumpet features 92-year-old Marian Leatherby as its polite, sensible and intrepid heroine.

Marian’s adventures begin when she is given a hearing trumpet as a gift. She overhears her son and daughter-in-law’s plans to install her in a medieval Spanish castle that has been converted into a home for old ladies. There a mystery begins, involving a decidedly witchy 18th Century Abbess, the Holy Grail, and a plate of poisoned brownies. Trying to describe the plot doesn’t really do it justi...more
Sep 07, 2010 aya rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to aya by: Chris Jacobson
Shelves: the-best
Somehow, Leonora Carrington creates a group of mad old women that are completely relatable and endearing in their madness. Although much of the book's beauty lay in its whimsy and sense of play, the strong current of humanity and compassion that runs through it makes it more than just fun. Leonora Carrington's mind is a mind that I want to live in, for its wild creativity and individuality, iron sense of self, and complete confidence in the wonders of life.
Nov 18, 2008 aisling rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: senile old ladies
Recommended to aisling by: Adam and lydia
climate change.
review in italian and ENGLISH:

Un racconto vivace, ironico e coinvolgente. Spirito simbolista e raffinatezza. La protagonista ed "eronina" è una donna anziana con la quale berresti molto volentieri una tazza di tè. Non è follia ma immaginazione. Non capita spesso, anzi quasi mai di leggere una meravigliosa storia fantastica ambientata in un ospizio con protagonista una pensionata arzilla che non si ferma davanti a nulla trasformarsi quasi in un thriller esoterico, con riferimenti al culto della d...more
The original Latin root for 'obedience' is obaudire. It can be translated as ‘standing by, ready to listen’. Don’t let it fool you, The Hearing Trumpet is drenched in anarchism.

Its timeless rebelliousness appears as matter of fact and is of the healthiest kind: the stabbing social commentary sustains a very low level of venom and the narrator’s tone remains stately even when things get violent (it’s Mrs Carrington's signature trait, I am told). The novel follows the surrealist tradition with gra...more
Eccentric, enchanting, and delightful, the tale of Marian Leatherby and her superannuated friends is a fantastic and humorous romp with some serious observations made along the way. The ninety-two year-old protagonist is packed off by her family to an institution for old women without a thought for her wishes. As her daughter-in-law puts it to Marian's son, "'Remember Galahad,' added Muriel, 'these old people do not have feelings like you or I. She would be much happier in an institution where t...more
Patrick Kelly
Leonora Carrington is one of my favorite surrealist artists - I've seen a handful of her drawings and paintings in New York and Chicago. When I found out she was also a novelist, I knew I had to experience what she would bring to the written page. I set out nervously - scared my expectations would not be met or that it would be so much unintelligible drivel. However, I was (thankfully) not disappointed. The story is of an old woman whose hearing and senses are failing her. She carries around an...more
Chumbert Squurls
For anyone who isn't familiar with Leonora Carrington, this is a great place to begin. Her only full length novel tells the story of a spry nonagenarian that gets stuck in a gothic old folks home that used to be an abbey practicing occult rituals. Carrington overflows with strange little ideas some funny(a planned breakout from the old folks home in a submarine) to incongruously bizarre(a man lives in the women-only old folks home disguised as a female until his unnatural death by poisoned choco...more
James Barker
I have been a fan of Leonora Carrington's cabalistic artwork for some time. At last I have managed to read what is considered her finest literary endeavour and I have so much admiration for this beautiful, bonkers book. The 92 year old narrator, Marian Leatherby, is an ingenious creation and the conversations she shares with her best friend Carmella are hilarious, brimming with drama, paranoia and affection. Marian is abandoned by her family in an unorthodox retirement home where the most hypocr...more
Originally read this in about 1990 - Virago published this, her only novel, a collection of short stories and an autobiographical piece in the late 1980s. Have been looking for the short stories ever since (the copies I read belonged to an ex-girlfriend). So was absolutely delighted when Penguin reprinted The Hearing Trumpet.

It is really well written, full of sharp intelligence and wicked humour. It concerns the life and times of 92 year old Marian Letherby as she is shunted into a bizarre old...more
For about 80% of this book I was completely mystified at the devotion it seems to inspire in people-it wasn't surreal, it wasn't feminist, and it was boooooooring. The only interesting section focused on the retelling of a semi-mythological Abbess (that felt a bit like Foucault's Pendulum), but that ended too soon and dumped me right back into the ho-hum story of a bunch of quirky women in a nursing home run by a pseudo-Christian quack.

And then I got to the last 30 pages or so, which apparently...more
I can't recommend this book enough! It's written from the point of view of a senile old woman in a care facility filled with other old, senile women. It's just that they are less crazy than everyone else.

You know what though? That doesn't describe the book at all. Not one bit. It twists and turns and then inverts itself in ways I have never seen, even from people trying to twist and turn. Lenora Carrington was a surrealist, and the book makes that abundantly clear. I couldn't have guessed the e...more
Myth Girl
By the end of the first paragraph, I was pulled into this book. I am drawn to first person narratives, and was delighted to find this particular narrator is a 92 year woman. Not a perspective you see very often in literature. (Actually, I don't think I've ever read a book where the protagonist is so old). The book felt very divided though. The first half is about the narrator and sets up her adventure. The middle then contains a narrative that she reads. After that, it sort of felt like a differ...more
Jul 24, 2011 Kevin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: rebellious pensioners, feminists, surrealists
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 11, 2008 Rose rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: artists, surrealists
I stole this book from Lauren (along with a copy of The Second Sex that I never read) and i think about it all the time. The story of an old woman living with her ungrateful son and his annoying wife - they send her to an old folks home where she finds herself part of a cadre of other strange old ladies - some kind of crone's coven run by a prudish man. all the houses are shaped like odd objects, I think hers is a boot. it's a story about aging and mysteries, and I believe Carrington ran with th...more
Sep 24, 2012 Tristy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who want to integrate more magic into their daily lives
I LOVE this book. Someday I will write a proper review, but words truly fail me in trying to describe how magical and important this book is to me. Leonora Carrington is not just a genius painter, she is a genius writer. The magical, gender-fluid, sacred deity perfection of this book fills my soul with joy and hope every time I read it. I so wish I could live in a world constructed by Leonora Carrington, full of wolf-headed princesses and underworld Goddess magic, all within the vision of a deaf...more
An exceptionally unconstrained story about old ladies. It's genre writing from an outsider. The author was a surrealist painter (and old lady), and while her book concerns levitating nuns, werewolves, the Grail, and the end of civilization, it's not fantasy in the post-Tolkien sense.

Actually, I know exactly what tradition this book is in. It's magical surrealism, a genre that you know best as "that stuff Daniel Pinkwater writes". (Pinkwater is of course an attested Dadaist; there's an essay abou...more
This was a fun book, though not quite as fun as I thought it would be. Actually, probably the funnest part was reading a little bit about Carrington in the intro. I love the surrealists and especially her ex-beau, Max Ernst, so I thought I'd give it a shot. And while it is funny, and the imagery of the book was as surreal and outlandish as you'd expect, it didn't sway me the way I felt a novel should, probably because I didn't care about the characters or the concepts too too much.
This is a hoot! About a dotty old lady who is banished to a home for senile women. All is not as it seems, however, as the novel gleefully carries the reader through a plot involving, variously, murderous old ladies, a mysterious painting of a winking nun, a journey into the Underworld, and deliverance through a really strange and apocalyptic version of the Noah's Ark story. Very amusing and unpredictable, told by a wholly original and loopy sensibility!
Curtis Ackie
I love Leonora Carrington’s paintings, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover that she was also quite the writer. This wonderful piece of fantastical and humorous literature is about a 92-year-old woman (and her magical hearing trumpet) who is sent to a cult-like rest home. Heavy on the alchemy and surrealism, this book took me on an unforgettable adventure and I highly recommend it to fans of all things mystical
Delightfully strange, wildly imaginative, and, in 92-year-old Marian Leatherby, featuring one of the most charming of protagonists, The Hearing-Trumpet celebrates the joy of seeing the world in your own, idiosyncratic way, and, like only the very best surreal narratives, makes perfect sense on some level you can't explain.
Sian Lile-Pastore
well this was crazy and wonderful. I loved the beginning (when she lives with her son and brushes her cats and keeps their hair in jars to knit a jumper) and I loved the end too. There was a bit in the middle about a nun which lost me a little, but overall this was amazing!
Olivia Z
I don't think I've ever smiled this much reading a book before as I did during the last half of Carrington's The Hearing Trumpet. There is something so heartfelt hidden in this story of elderly ladies dabbling in the occult. And even though this might be the most bizarre and extraordinary thing I've read to date, I can't find a better word to describe the feeling I get from this book than natural. Everything just runs so smoothly, so matter-of-factly, that it lulls the reader into a feeling of s...more
This little book is bizarre, to say the least. The author is a surrealist painter and it sure shows in her writing. She tells the story from the first person point of view of 92-year-old Marian Leatherby. Since Marian is deaf, the title refers to a gift given by a friend. Marian's family don't want her around so they put her in an institution which turns out to be another world unto itself. It is a place of dried up old women who believe in magic and spirits while the operators of the establishm...more
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Leonora Carrington was a British-born artist, a surrealist painter and while living in Mexico, a novelist.
More about Leonora Carrington...
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“You may not believe in magic but something very strange is happening at this very moment. Your head has dissolved into thin air and I can see the rhododendrons through your stomach. It's not that you are dead or anything dramatic like that, it is simply that you are fading away and I can't even remember your name.” 50 likes
“People under seventy and over seven are very unreliable if they are not cats.” 35 likes
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