Monday, March 24, 2008

Tamsin by Peter Beagle

tamsin1.jpgThere's a quote on the back of my copy of Tamsin by Peter Beagle from The Orlando Sentinel that says "This is a book that any Beagle fan must have, and will convert any newcomers to his magical works." And I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. I think that I enjoyed this one even more than Beagle's The Last Unicorn which I read last year for the Once Upon a Time challenge. Tamsin is a little bit fantasy, a little bit horror, a little bit of a coming of age story, and a ghostly love story all combined into one. It's written as a first person narrative looking back at the past..telling a story, from the point of view of young Jenny Gluckstein, 13 at the time of the events of the book, 19 when she's writing it. After growing up in New York as an only with her mother who she calls "Sally", she moves to Dorset in England to live with her mother's fiancee and his two sons against her wishes. She has to leave her two only friends in the states and move from a city life to a small country, farming life in the country side of England and nothing about it sounds appealing to her. The only saving grace she has is her beloved cat, Mr. Cat, who if I say so myself is one of the best written animal characters I've read in awhile. On the drive up to Dorset, Jenny's new stepdad, Evan tells her of all of the myths and legends surrounding Dorset. There are said to be boggarts, brownie like creatures that invade homes...ghosts that haunt the area from past times, creatures that roam the forests, and a wild hunt that chases ghosts throughout the night. And then there is the Pooka, a black horse with golden eyes that you can never trust. But of course all of this is stuff not to be taken seriously. They arrive at Stourhead Farm, their new home, and it's an old home with lots of history. Jenny slowly makes friends with her young stepbrother Julian as they begin to notice that there are odd sounds in the house and things go awry on their own. One night while lying in bed with Mr. Cat, Jenny notices a second cat leap onto her bed...but this cat isn't quite's somewhat transparent. But Mr. Cat takes a liking to her anyway. Jenny soon finds that the cat belongs to no other than a ghost named Tamsin. A woman who has lived at Stourhead Farm for over 300 years. The resulting story is a beautiful one that takes the reader on a fantastic adventure filled with amazing creatures and a mystery to be untangled. Why is Tamsin still here after 300 years and what happened to her beloved Edric? My experience with Beagle has been that he writes such original stories. He tells such a wonderful fantasy tale with great twists, an original point of view, and he adds such heart to the story. There's such a strong emotional aspect to this story. Very strong themes of friendship, love, betrayal, bonding, etc. Each character that he writes has so much thought put into them. There are no "wasted characters" in this book. I loved (or loved to hate) each and every one of them. The point is that I really cared about this book and that's not something that always happens.

No comments: