Peter S. Beagle creates magic in this coming-of-age ghost story, returning to a subgenre he first explored in A Fine and Private Place
. When her mother remarries, 13-year-old narrator Jenny Gluckstein moves from New York City to a run-down, haunted, 300-year-old farm in Dorset, England. In slow-moving early chapters, unhappy Jenny's beloved Mister Cat is quarantined for six months and she must attend an English girl's school. Jenny's voice is painfully genuine, her self-description merciless. If early adolescence brings on flashbacks, wait to read this book.
The pace picks up when Mister Cat returns and Jenny meets Meena Chari, whose belief in the supernatural comes from growing up in ghost-ridden India. First Mister Cat finds a new girlfriend, a ghostly Persian Cat only he and Jenny can see. Then she and her younger stepbrother, Julian, confront a boggart who's been playing tricks on the family. The gnome-like boggart is dressed in a Seven Dwarves hat, Robin Hood garb, "and heavy little boots, ankle-high--I'd have taken them for Doc Martens, except I don't think they make them in boggart sizes." The boggart warns her to beware of the ghost cat, her mistress, and "the Other One" most of all. But one afternoon she follows Mister Cat to meet Tamsin Willoughby, ghost of the farm-founder's daughter. Tamsin is friendly, but won't tell Jenny anything about the Other One, or talk about Edric, apparently her lost love. To free Tamsin's ghost, Jenny must relive the tragic history of 17th-century Dorset and face grave danger.
Tamsin is vintage Beagle: there's a shape-shifting Pooka, a ghostly love story, music, the Goddess, and the Wild Hunt. It's beautifully written and can be read on several levels, including as a loving homage to Thomas Hardy's moody novels (Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Far from the Madding Crowd) and poetry (Selected Poems). Or you can lose yourself in the story. Fans of The Last Unicorn will enjoy this one. --Nona Vero
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From Publishers Weekly
Like his enchanting The Last Unicorn, Beagle's newest fantasy features characters so real they leap off his pages and into readers' souls. Tamsin Willoughby, dead some 300 years, haunts ramshackle old Stourhead Farm in Dorset, England, an ancient 700-acre estate that 13-year-old Jenny's new, English stepfather is restoring. Thoroughly American Jenny, miserable at being transplanted from New York City to rural Britain, finds a suffering kindred spirit in Tamsin, a ghost who is mourning Edric, a love she lost during Dorset's punitive Bloody Assizes under King James II. Tamsin leads Jenny through an engrossing night world inhabited by an array of British spiritsAthe Black Dog, a braggart Boggart, ominous Oakmen, the shapeshifting Pooka and a marvelous mystical army-booted Earth Mother. To save Tamsin and gentle Edric from eternal torment, Jenny faces evil personified: demonic Judge Jeffries, who sentenced hundreds of people to brutal execution during the Assizes. Slipping effortlessly between Jenny's brash 1999 lingo, the raw primeval dialect of ancient Dorset and Tamsin's exquisite Jacobean English, Beagle has created a stunning tale of good battling evil, of wonder and heartbreak and of a love able to outlast the worst vileness of the human heart. Fantasy rarely dances through the imagination in more radiant garb than this. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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