Like most people who are able to read and enjoy fantasy, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Peter S. Beagle. That’s not to say I’m a real fan, however; he’s a remarkable writer, and uses language like a virtuoso uses a violin, but I’ve just never warmed to him.
And In Calabria is a perfect example of why. It’s a beautiful book. The characters are marvelous. The intrusion of the rare and beautiful into the life of a reclusive and misanthropic man is intense and utterly real.
But, for me, there’s some … thing lacking. I have no idea what. Something holds me back, creates a distance. It was gorgeous and I’m glad I read it, and parts of it will stay with me – but, still…
In any case… while neither this nor any of the other Beagles I’ve read will ever be my very favorite book, it was still a remarkable experience. I saw one review which complained that there was nothing new here, that Beagle has “done” unicorns before, didn’t have to do it again – but I think that’s … well, insane. It’s been a while since I read The Last Unicorn, but I don’t think this bears much of a resemblance to that, apart from the obvious: the cataclysmic effect a creature of legend can have on ordinary life. It’s not a well, which can be dipped into too often – it’s a river, a force of nature, never the same two moments running. Maybe that’s why I’ve never been fonder of Peter Beagle – his extraordinarily comforting last name notwithstanding, his are simply not comfortable books.
The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.