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The Hearing Trumpet

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  2,816 ratings  ·  370 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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Judy Lindow No. Doubt they'd enjoy or get the humor of aging. It's not like handing a treen Bukowski ... but the surreal realism is not always easy - it's a…moreNo. Doubt they'd enjoy or get the humor of aging. It's not like handing a treen Bukowski ... but the surreal realism is not always easy - it's a little too sophisticated. I would give a younger person some of her short stories, her paintings, and sculpture. I might pick from some of her views on woman's liberation.(less)

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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
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 ...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

Here's the cover of the 1977 Pocket Books mass-market I have (192 pages), which isn't listed at the moment.
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.
Nancy Oakes
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite, 2019

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
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,
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,
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 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
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
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
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.
Suki St Charles
"People under seventy and over seven are very unreliable if they are not cats."
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
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 resembles
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 ...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.
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
a story of a grandmother discovering herself unwelcome in her own home gradually transforms into a feminist grail myth and a new ice age. makes sense.
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 ...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
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 ...more
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,
[I’m posting the same review for all three books mentioned in the next paragraph, as it discusses themes common to the books that I read concurrently.]

Another serendipitous, and very strange, co-read: Comemadre, a 2009 novel by Argentine author Roque Larraquy, The Green Child, from 1935 by Englishman Herbert Read, and The Hearing Trumpet from 1976 by Englishwoman-living-in-Mexico Leonora Carrington.

Each of these three books is set, at least partially, in a sequestered kingdom or institution in
Auriel Roe
Sep 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Leonara Carrington is one of my favourite artists and this book captures her surreal and quirky soul. There are some great passages - what a wit! - and some nicely structured sentences with clever comic timing. As a whole novel, it tends to drag, the plot is sketchy and she even forgets about the hearing trumpet, a key object in the book, for long stretches. Carrington needed a ruthless editor. If all else fails, you can just enjoy the handful of her illustrations.
May 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Edward by: James Barker

--The Hearing Trumpet
The Hearing Trumpet starts off as a light-heartedly humerous "batty old bag" kind of a story about a 92 year old woman, Marian Leatherby, and her rather unpleasant (or, at least, unsympathetic) family, who want to ship her off to a home for senile women, as they find her absent-minded wanderings something of an inconvenience and an embarrassment.

Once arrived at the institution run by the Well of Light Brotherhood ("financed by a prominent American cereal company"), things take a darker and more
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Into the Forest: The Hearing Trumpet 56 72 Jan 23, 2019 06:27AM  

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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.
“People under seventy and over seven are very unreliable if they are not cats.” 96 likes
“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.” 91 likes
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