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The Hearing Trumpet

4.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,529 Ratings  ·  183 Reviews
Leonora Carrington, the distinguished British-born Surrealist painter is also a writer of extraordinary imagination and charm. Exact Change launched a program of reprinting her fiction with what is perhaps her best loved book.

The Hearing Trumpet is the story of 92-year-old Marian Leatherby, who is given the gift of a hearing trumpet only to discover that what her family is
Paperback, 199 pages
Published February 2nd 2004 by Exact Change (first published January 1st 1967)
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Nate D
Jul 11, 2011 Nate D rated it really liked it
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
Ali Smith's introduction to this edition very effectively renders any comment from me superfluous, since Smith seems to be coming from a perspective by my side and is much more eloquent and insightful than I could hope to be. As she points out, Carrington's vision of nuclear winter is entirely swap-outable for the in-progress fossil-fuel-induced climate catastrophe. Her comments on feminist themes in the book, including attitudes towards older women, were similarly on point. My urging fellow you ...more
Jan 17, 2015 Rod rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
92-year-old Marian Leatherby is quite content living with her son and his family; she holds no illusions that she is a welcome presence in the home, so she stays out of everyone's way in the hope that they will stay out of hers, a strategy that has always paid off so far. Her hearing is none too good, so she is given a gift of a hearing trumpet by her eccentric, beatific best friend Carmella. With her newly enhanced hearing she is able to overhear that her family plans to ship her off to a home ...more
May 06, 2012 knig rated it it was ok
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
Jun 29, 2010 Miriam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 18, 2015 Jalilah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mythic-fiction
What a crazy, exhilarating ride the Hearing Trumpet takes you on!
It is not craziness just for the sake of being weird, rather an expression of the soul's deep subconscious connection to mankinds collective myths. This novel covers deep subjects like old age, society's dismissive treatment of older women, the patriarchal domination of what were once female dominated rituals and mythology and the destructive consequences of the atom bomb on the environment.
The description on Goodreads is actuall
Philip Dodd
May 20, 2015 Philip Dodd rated it it was amazing
In May, 2015, I went to see an exhibition of the paintings of Leonora Carrington in the Tate gallery, the Albert Dock, Liverpool, my home city. I loved her paintings and the masks she made for a production of The Tempest. I would call her paintings works of spiritual surrealism, which for one bright day in May changed my perception, and made me see there is no divide between what we call the real world and the other world, that of dreams, myth and fancy. We inhabit the real world, but the other ...more
Jun 07, 2016 El rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: My boyfriend
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
Jul 15, 2008 Navera rated it really liked it
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.
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
The Hearing Trumpet is a feminist Holy Grail quest and apocalypse novel from the perspective of a 92-year-old woman—Marian—who is sent against her will to an old person’s facility (which is a sprawling, surrealist Spanish castle). And it’s fantastic, warm, cerebral, hilarious. I can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud while reading, and I did so several times with THT, and read the funniest passages to my SO. I’ve always loved novels with older women as the protagonists, and this one fea ...more
Jun 22, 2016 Yamini rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Hearing Trumpet opens with our narrator’s best friend, Carmilla, gifting her a trumpet which she suggests our narrator use to listen in on her family’s conversations. Our narrator, Marian, then listens in on her family’s discussion about putting her into a home, which she can do nothing about but agree to go. Moving into the Institution brings a series of adventures and mysteries which become more and more bizarre as time passes.

My favorite character of the book would have to be, hands down,
Nesa Sivagnanam
Jul 11, 2012 Nesa Sivagnanam rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 20, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: women
Surprisingly funny. A dry wit & humor. From the beginning there is an unassuming intelligence. It does not bludgeon nor speak in a condescending manner. I believe this comes from the earthen main character. She does not profess but merely speaks from the lessons of life. & yet it is not simplistic. It is rich with background knowledge. The artistic tastes. The Jungian references. The eccentricities of various characters. The odd premise itself. The mythology. The spiritual language. All ...more
Brandon Alan
Apr 21, 2016 Brandon Alan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016

Page 1 - 23 (5 stars)

Page 24- 158 (3 stars)

Overall I give this a 3.5 rounded up to 4 because I liked Marian Leatherby so damn much.

Sep 07, 2010 aya rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 23, 2016 Emanuel rated it it was amazing
Gamla kvinnor, crossdressing, giftmord, blinkande nunnor, Det Ockulta, katter, tempelriddare, Lappland, vänskap och violpastiller.

Nästan varje sida innehåller något så bra att jag vill stryka under det varsamt med en rosa akvarellpenna och läsa det högt för alla mina vänner. T.ex:
"Jag äter aldrig kött eftersom jag tycker det är fel att beröva djur livet när de ändå är så svårtuggade." (s. 6)

"Tjänsteflickan, Rosina, är en indiankvinna med buttert humör och verkar allmänt avogt inställd till reste
Nov 18, 2008 aisling rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: senile old ladies
Recommended to aisling by: Adam and lydia
climate change.
Jun 29, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it
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
Mar 16, 2011 Leanna rated it liked it
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
Mar 31, 2014 Curtis Ackie rated it it was amazing
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
Coral Davies
Jan 09, 2016 Coral Davies rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have no idea what I just read but I liked it.

The premise initially seems quite simple; an old woman gets a hearing trumpet just in time to discover her son and daughter-in-law are packing her off to a retirement home. A home where she will be cared for and much safer but mainly where she will no longer be in the way or reminding everyone of their own mortality.

That, however, is where any semblance of normality ends in the book. What follows is surreal to say the least. The protagonist finds he
Apr 10, 2015 Clara rated it liked it
I don't usually find Surrealist painting exciting , and I felt similarly about this novel, by one of the leading women in the Surrealist Art movement of the first half of the 20th century. Having said that, I'm delighted to have read it, if for no other reason than that it introduced me to its author. Leonora Carrington was quite the "dame," seemingly as rebellious, scandalous, and inventive as any of the men in the Art-Boys' Club of which he was a member. She lived into the 21st century, dying ...more
May 08, 2014 Vocisconnesse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 21, 2016 Simon rated it really liked it
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 healthy kind: the stabbing social commentary sustains a surprisingly low level of venom and the narrator’s tone remains stately even when things get violent. The novel follows the surrealist tradition gracefully and without the usual self-indulgence that
Patrick Kelly
Sep 21, 2010 Patrick Kelly rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 13, 2012 Chumbert Squurls rated it it was amazing
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
Zoe Brooks
May 25, 2013 Zoe Brooks rated it really liked it
Shelves: magic-realism
I am a fan of Leonora Carrington's art (an example of which is above) and I recommend liking her Facebook page: where new pictures and sculptures are regularly posted. She was a prominent surrealist: Salvador Dali called her "the most important female artist". But since reading this delightful book I've become a fan of her writing as well.

One of the joys of the book is Carrington's portrayal of old women. The heroine and narrator of the book, Marian, is
Sep 21, 2007 Eugene rated it it was amazing
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
May 06, 2015 Rebecca rated it really liked it
This novel was written by Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington, who fled to Mexico during World War II after a traumatically truncated love affair with Max Ernst. It features the bizarre adventures of a 92-year-old woman who is "put away" by her family into a very odd institution, werewolves, poisoned fudge, catastrophic climate change, and perhaps the greatest fortune cookie message ever: "Help! I am prisoner in the tower!" Highly entertaining if you enjoy Surrealism and can tolerate mysticism ...more
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Into the Forest: The Hearing Trumpet 42 25 Sep 18, 2015 08:35AM  
  • Leonora Carrington: Surrealism, Alchemy and Art
  • The Harpole Report
  • No Bed for Bacon
  • Ennui
  • Valerie and Her Week of Wonders
  • The Polyglots
  • Goose of Hermogenes
  • Mister Johnson
  • Surrealist Women: An International Anthology (Surrealist Revolution Series)
  • Brewster's Millions
  • Ice
  • Paris Peasant
  • According to Queeney
  • Before Lunch
  • Towards the End of the Morning
  • Slouching Towards Kalamazoo
  • A Fairy Tale of New York
  • The Adventures of Gil Blas
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.” 66 likes
“People under seventy and over seven are very unreliable if they are not cats.” 56 likes
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