Further Reading: Leonora Carrington

by Public Service Associate Juliana

Photo: Leonora Carrington by Katie Horna

Earlier this month the library hosted award-winning poet Rikki Santer for a reading from her new poetry collection, Resurrection Letter: Leonora, Her Tarot, and Me. Her new work is a rich homage to the vision and joy of surrealist painter, Leonora Carrington.

I was familiar with the name Leonora Carrington and knew that she was a writer and artist, popular in occult circles. But I didn’t know any specifics about what she wrote, the art she made, or the time period in which she lived and worked. I didn’t know she was part of the expat crowd that left France during World War II, that she loved, lived, and painted alongside fellow surrealist Max Ernst, and that she was best friends with artist Remedios Varo.

When I read that Santer’s presentation would “follow Leonora through sequined tunnels, sister moons, gothic mansions, and the shaman’s cloak of the Tarot,” I was curious to know more.

I took that curiosity straight to the library catalog. 

  • Leonora in the Morning Light by Michaela Carter | book
  • Alchemy of a Blackbird by Claire McMillan | book

Much to my delight, I discovered two historical fiction novels, Leonora in the Morning Light and Alchemy of a Blackbird, both featuring Carrington in a prominent role, which I eagerly put on reserve. Historical fiction often includes a bibliography section that provides an excellent way to discover additional resources. When something piques your interest, reading biographical fiction or historical fiction can be a great place to start.

I’ve since read and would recommend both novels. Leonora in the Morning Light is perhaps too long by about fifty pages, but it’s lyrical, well-researched, and captivating. I tend to like first-person narratives, so the characters in novels written in third-person, like this one is, often feel distant to me. While still engaging, Carrington reads slightly distant here. By the end you feel like you know her but also that there is much more to know.

It was interesting to read the novels in the particular order that I did because while Leonora in the Morning Light, which I read first, is set primarily in France during wartime, Alchemy of a Blackbird devotes a good bit of time to the years she and Remedios Varo spent in Mexico. Reading the latter, I got the sense that during Carrington’s time in Mexico she came more fully into herself as a person and an artist. 

Delving into the world of Leonora Carrington has made my fall feel absolutely enchanted. I can’t wait to learn more.

  • Leonora Carrington: Surrealism, Alchemy and Art by Susan L. Aberth | book
  • The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington by Leonora Carrington | book
  • The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington | book
  • Out of This World: The Surreal Art of Leonora Carrington by Michelle Markel| book
  • The Creative Tarot: A Modern Guide to an Inspired Life by Jessa Crispin | book
  • Tarot for Change: Using the Cards for Self-Care, Acceptance, and Growth by Jessica Dore | book
  • Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Tarot Journey to Self-Awareness by Rachel Pollack | book