The concept of capital-A ART reigns lavishly above the characters within Costalegre. A woman and her daughter, stand-ins for Peggy and Pegeen Guggenheim, go to Mexico to wait out the steamroller of World War II. They are surrounded by the mother’s collection of artists and hangers-on. They wait for a steamship full of the mother’s collection of art which may still be creeping across the ocean towards their hideaway in the jungle. The mother’s collection is full of people and pieces deemed to be unworthy; Europe did not want the Leftist artists and thinkers nor the avant garde art they created.
Everyone in Costalegre is hiding. Some are hiding from war, some from families, some from governments that sent them into exile, and almost all of them are hiding from the truth. They are hiding from failure; failure to be good family members, failure to make great art, failure to grow, failure to learn, and failure to live up to the ideals that they claim to represent. Many are failing to admit who they are.
Lara, our narrator, has been failed by many. Her mother ignores her, her brother has forgotten her, and her father has neglected her altogether. Lara is alone in Mexico without a friend, a talent, a dream, or a way of speaking the language. She tries to paint. She tries to write. She seeks out the ill advised company of an older artist and former friend of her mother. She seeks shelter from the storm, literally and figuratively, with a stoic man who tames wild horses and makes brutal sculpture.
There is no clear ending here, and there is no clear goal. Lara’s inspiration, Pegeen Guggenheim, was a mystery. She lived a tormented and cluttered life. Was she an artist? Was she well? Was she appreciated? Was she loved? Above all other things, Costalegre opened a door to the shadowy Pegeen, and I plan to follow her tale right into the library.