Alchemy of a Blackbird: A Novel (Paperback)

Alchemy of a Blackbird: A Novel By Claire McMillan Cover Image
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For fans of The Age of Light and Z comes a “beguiling novel of artistic ambition, perseverance, and friendship” (Katy Hays, New York Times bestselling author) based on the true story of the 20th-century painters and tarot devotees Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington.

In this “unforgettable adventure, and one you don’t want to miss” (Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author), painter Remedios Varo and her lover, poet Benjamin Peret escape the Nazis by fleeing Paris and arriving at a safe house for artists on the Rivieria.

Along with Max Ernst, Peggy Guggenheim, and others, the two anxiously wait for exit papers.

As the months pass, Remedios begins to sense that the others don’t see her as a fellow artist; they have cast her in the stifling role of a surrealist ideal: the beautiful innocent. She finds refuge in a mysterious bookshop, where she stumbles into a world of occult learning and intensifies an esoteric practice in the tarot that helps her light the bright fire of her creative genius.

When travel documents come through, Remedios and Benjamin flee to Mexico where she is reunited with friend and fellow painter Leonora Carrington. Together, the women tap into their creativity, stake their independence, and each find their true loves. But it is the tarot that enables them to access the transcendent that lies on the other side of consciousness and to become the truest Surrealists of all.

About the Author

Claire McMillan is the author of Alchemy of a Blackbird, Gilded Age, and The Necklace. She was the 2017–2018 Cuyahoga County Writer-in-Residence and currently serves as a member of the board of trustees of The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, Massachusetts. She practiced law until 2003 and then received her MFA in creative writing from Bennington College. She grew up in Pasadena, California, and now lives on her husband’s family farm outside of Cleveland, Ohio, with their two children.

Praise For…

“A dazzling kaleidoscope of surrealist voices animates this beguiling novel of artistic ambition, perseverance, and friendship. Set against the backdrop of the Second World War's great artistic exodus, Alchemy of A Blackbird insists on the essential role art plays in the lives of its two dynamic female protagonists—Lenora Carrington and Remedios Varos. McMillan transports us to the magical, uncanny world of the Surrealists by deftly using tarot--a practice vital to the art of both Carrington and Varos—to shape her narrative in unexpectedly dramatic and evocative ways. I wanted to linger along the French Riviera and get a coffee in Veracruz, Mexico with her incredible ensemble cast of characters. And maybe, if I was lucky, have them offer me a tarot spread, too." —Katy Hays, author of The Cloisters

"McMillan chronicles the artistic evolution of surrealist painter Remedios Varo in her enchanting and intricately crafted latest...This superb exploration of survival and transformation will have special appeal to those interested in art, mysticism, and women’s lives."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"A chorus of fascinating voices, including the mystical and wise voice of the tarot, guides us through this powerful and immersive novel. Claire McMillan asks the most important questions about our lives and answers them with a book about the enigmatic alchemy of art, the transformative power of friendship, the mystery of unseen guidance, and the deep wounds and healing aspects of love. Alchemy of a Blackbird is an unforgettable adventure, and one you don’t want to miss: I loved it." —Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Book of Flora Lea

"Full of stunning detail about historical tarot practices, the Surrealist movement’s treatment of women creatives, and the thriving artistic and intellectual community in postwar Mexico, McMillan’s novel tells of two real-life artists seeking to create despite being stifled by societal norms surrounding gender and class. McMillan’s inclusion of tarot-card illustrations and her pairing of characters with certain cards gives the characters further development."Library Journal, starred review

"Each chapter in this entrancing, vivid, and lushly illuminating novel begins with a tarot card that introduces the next narrator in a scintillating cast of actual and imagined characters offering distinct perspectives on Remedios and her profoundly inspired artistic and spiritual quest."—Donna Seaman, Booklist

"The ingenious use of the tarot to portray the nature of the characters and the passing of wisdom between women make Alchemy of a Blackbird a satisfying read."
—Akron Beacon Journal

"Alchemy of a Blackbird is enigmatic, inventive, and rich with love and longing, art and magic. A story told in the captivating voices of artists and their patrons, the novel explores fascinating lives in a state of profound upheaval, making for irresistible drama as the characters travel the world in search of beauty and peace." —Timothy Schaffert, author of The Perfume Thief 

Product Details
ISBN: 9781668006566
ISBN-10: 1668006561
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: March 19th, 2024
Pages: 304
Language: English