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The Hearing Trumpet

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  3,811 ratings  ·  536 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 1974)
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Paula I think I read this in my teens and I loved it.
I think I read this in my teens and I loved it.

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Average rating 4.06  · 
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Nate D
Jun 27, 2011 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
Apr 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. The Hearing Trumpet is an exuberantly surreal adventure, one which includes such bizarre (and spoiler-y...consider yourself warned) elements as: a 92-year-old woman sentenced to a most unusual retirement home, a mysterious portrait of a winking Abbess, a problematic planisphere, an untimely death by way of a questionable carrot, a lilac limousine (and matching wig!), auto-cannibalism, a new ice age, plenty of cats, werewolves and bees, and even the Holy Grail. This decidedly peculiar ...more
Jack Tripper
Dec 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: weird, fantasy, humorous

Here's the cover of the 1977 Pocket Books mass-market I have (192 pages), which isn't listed at the moment.
A book I've been circling for years, even before I joined Goodreads: depending what I heard about it, sometimes it sounded enticing and light (a charming, funny, Alice-like fantasy with intellectual depth) sometimes depressing (about an old lady in an oppressive nursing home). I was finally induced to read it by this recent interview with Olga Tokarczuk, in which she says it influenced her newly-translated Drive your Plow over the Bones of the Dead.

Some editions of The Hearing Trumpet, includin
Nancy Oakes
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, favorite

In a 1977 interview that appears as a foonote on the first page of the introduction of this edition, Carrington notes that in this book she "wanted to appear as an old lady so that I could poke fun at sinister things." And this she does, and does it so well that I couldn't help falling in love with Marian as well as with the book itself.

Marian Leatherby is ninety-two and lives with her son Galahad, his wife Muriel, and one of their five children who still lives at home. Her best friend
Jun 14, 2010 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. ...more
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
A novel way of spring cleaning

It was this interview in the Guardian that brought me here. Olga Tokarczuk mentions that one influence on Drive your Plow over the Bones of the Dead was the hilarious, sassy 92 year old narrator of this novel, Marian Leatherby. For the first 72 pages I was with her, absolutely, laughing like a drain and thinking that my wholehearted recommendation here would say things like "Do not read in a public place or when drinking tea", you know, a high snort count. But then,
Kevin Adams
Jan 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perfect weekend read. Funny, weird. Beautiful writing. Nothing better than a nonagenarian character to lead us into this crazy world.
May 02, 2012 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
May 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
Wikipedia says the following about Leonora Carrington (6 April 1917 – 25 May 2011), the author of this short surrealist novel:
(She) was a British-born Mexican artist, surrealist painter, and novelist. She lived most of her adult life in Mexico City and was one of the last surviving participants in the Surrealist movement of the 1930s. Carrington was also a founding member of the Women's Liberation Movement in Mexico during the 1970s.

The novel is a work of fantasy, a genre that is not my usual c
People under seventy and over seven are very unreliable if they are not cats.
Ninety-two-year-old Marian Leatherby has been unceremoniously parked in a peculiar institution by her spineless son Galahad and domineering daughter-in-law Muriel. Operated by the Well of Light Brotherhood and financed by the Bouncing Breakfast Cereals Co. (possibly a stand-in for Kellogg, whose Seventh-day Adventist founder John Harvey Kellogg was chief medical officer at a sanitarium), the institution more resembl
Oct 08, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
Aug 31, 2015 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 strange, 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 as well as the destructive consequences of the atom bomb on the environment.
The description on Goodreads i
Jul 15, 2008 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.
Sep 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-library
92-year-old Marian Leatherby lives at home with her son, his wife, and their son. Her days are spent idly grooming her cats and visiting her eccentric friend Carmella, who one day gives her a magnificent hearing trumpet, which will not only improve Marian’s lack of hearing, but as Carmella puts it: “… you will also have the privilege of being able to spy on what your whole family is saying about you, and that ought to be very amusing.” Marian soon discovers that her quiet ways are becoming a nui ...more
Josh Friedlander
Today eighty years ago, Walter Benjamin crossed the Pyrenees from France into Spain, was rejected as an enemy alien, and took his own life the following day. Leonora Carrington, last of the Surrealists, made the same journey a year earlier after the arrest of her partner Max Ernst. It ended in a breakdown at the British Embassy in Madrid, and incarceration in an asylum where she was given electroshock therapy and claimed to have undergone neglect and sexual assault.

This book emerges from that ex
Suki St Charles
"People under seventy and over seven are very unreliable if they are not cats." ...more
Jay Sandover
Jan 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is a great novel. The voice of the narrator is constantly wonderful and surprising. I think the Blake Butler description is perfect: "The Crying Of Lot 49 on Ambien, or perhaps The Magic Mountain whittled down to a viral nightmare, or a shiv." Highly recommended. I'd give it more stars if I could. ...more
Philip Dodd
May 11, 2015 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 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed, june-2017
Leonora Carrington's The Hearing Trumpet is as wonderfully odd and obscure as it sounds. The novel is amusing, sometimes startlingly so; it made me laugh aloud in a few places, which very few books manage to do. (I do have a sense of humour. Promise.) Whilst I wasn't at all fond of the religious aspects, I found our protagonist Marian quite a character. She and her best friend Carmella are two great eccentrics, really. One never quite knows what they're going to do next.

I would categorise The He
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
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Bizarre and off the wall weird, this is a must read for lovers of very unusual stories. This will leave you breathless with its very odd style.
NYRB Classic Book Club Jan. Selection

Society does not like women of a certain age. Let’s be honest. Look at most of the Hollywood productions and actually look at the age of the mothers and in many cases, the age of the actress playing the mother will preclude her being the mother of the child. There are expectations – everyone loves Betty White.

Carrington’s novel details the end of the world, perhaps, told from the viewpoint of old woman, with even an older mother but who is shuffled off to
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
Sep 23, 2012 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
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a delightful, magical, and unexpectedly apocalyptic tale of a 92 year old woman whose family put her in an old people’s home. Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington’s writing is deft, mysterious, and extremely funny. I was reminded of Lolly Willowes and Two Serious Ladies, in which women considered excess to requirements by their families also rebel against the situation. ‘The Hearing Trumpet’ abounds with beautiful imagery, deadpan humour, and a sense of magical possibility that make it a jo ...more
Mar 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
"When Carmella gave me the present of a hearing trumpet she may have foreseen some of the consequences. Carmella is not what I would call malicious, she just happens to have a curious sense of humor."

From THE HEARING TRUMPET by Leonora Carrington, 1974, illustrated edition (by her son, Pablo Weisz Carrington) from 1996 by Exact Change

92 year old Marian Leatherby receives a hearing trumpet from her friend, and one of the first things she hears with her new device is her son's plans to send her to
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Leonora Carrington was an English-born Mexican artist, surrealist painter, and novelist. She lived most of her adult life in Mexico City, and was one of the last surviving participants in the Surrealist movement of the 1930s. Carrington was also a founding member of the Women’s Liberation Movement in Mexico during the 1970s.

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