Peggy by Rebecca Godfrey with Leslie Jamison

Peggy Guggenheim has been the subject of numerous movies, plays, and documentaries. Known in early life only because she was a Guggenheim and an heiress to her family’s massive fortune. In her later years, she struck out on her own, developing a flamboyant style and fine taste. When she died in Italy in 1979, she left an indelible mark on the art world. 

In a new meticulously researched fictional retelling, crafted over more than a decade by award-winning novelist Rebecca Godfrey, an alternate reality of Peggy Guggenheim is brought vibrantly to life. When Godfrey died of cancer in 2022, Peggy, which was two parts completed, fell into the hands of her friend and acclaimed author Leslie Jamison, who finished the novel. 

Here we follow Peggy from her birth as Marguerite Guggenheim, the daughter of two Jewish dynasties, in 1898 in New York, where she comes of age in a world of excess wealth and luxury. At fourteen, she learns her father, Benjamin, is among the fatal casualties of the Titanic. Following his death, Peggy grapples with what it means to be a Guggenheim, her family name bearing significant weight and expectations.

In an attempt to distance herself from her family, she moves to Paris, settling in an apartment along Boulevard Saint Germain with her lover, writer Laurence Vail. Their marriage, followed by two children, is loving yet volatile due to Vail’s unpredictable mood swings and violent outbursts.

When Peggy’s sister Benita dies in childbirth, and her other sister is institutionalized, she reaches a turning point. Peggy meets and falls in love with Samuel Beckett, who at the time is assisting James Joyce. All the while, she remains a devoted mother who is determined to make a name for herself outside of the world she was born into. She accomplishes this with the opening of her first gallery, Guggenheim Jeune, in London’s Mayfair district. This galley is the beginning of what will cement her name as one of the most influential art collectors of her time. 

The result of Godfrey and Jamison’s work is a fresh and remarkable portrait of a boundary-breaking visionary who continues to inspire many today. 

Rebecca Godfrey by Brigitte Lacombe

Rebecca Godfrey (1967-2022) was an award-winning novelist and journalist. Her books include The Torn Skirt, finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and the award-winning true crime story Under the Bridge, a Disney+ limited series starring Riley Keough as Rebecca Godfrey. Godfrey earned her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and taught writing at Columbia University. Born and raised in Canada, she lived with her husband and daughter in Upstate New York.

Courtesy, Leslie Jamison

Leslie Jamison's books include The Empathy Exams, The Recovering, the novel The Gin Closet, and the memoir Splinters. She teaches at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Peggy is available for pre-order, releasing August 13th in hardcover, e-book, and audiobook. Check or to support an independent bookstore near you.

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