Book Rating: 4.5
Alchemy of a Blackbird is a stunningly beautiful historical fiction novel about long-term relationships, and subjective transformation. Claire McMillan relates the story of celebrated artist, Remedios Varo, a painter who fled from Paris along with a cadre of other notable artists during the 1939 Nazi occupation of France. Remedios meets her lifelong artistic soulmate and confidante, Leonora Carrington, a wealthy socialite, escaping personal demons of her own. Eventually settling in Mexico allowed the two women to nurture their professional destinies and themselves. Remedios finds comfort and healing in the occult world of tarot and Leonora serves as her medium to the tangible world.
McMillan combines tarot with these women’s transcendent lives and careers, augmenting the plot with spirituality and uncanny wisdom. The author cleverly includes a tarot card in each chapter, depicting a character that narrates from their own POV, how they were affected by Remedios’s transformation and their role in her evolution.
Readers witness Remedios’s emergence from patriarchal shadows as she gained confidence, independence, and acknowledgement for her talent along the way. This was an absorbing novel with multiple layers of context. The intricacies of the occult world and the tarot card manifestations in Remedios’s and Lorraine’s lives were fascinating. I also enjoyed learning about the Surrealism cultural movement. I enthusiastically recommend Alchemy of a Blackbird as a book club pick, as it contains a variety of topics suited for discussion!
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