In Calabria does nothing unexpected. The story doesn’t go to places unforeseen, nor are there any shocking twists or turns along the way. But twists and turns aren’t something this tale needs. It is a slow, beautiful tale about the characters, their lives, and how they change. It is just as much a tale of love and learning to forgive as it is a story about magic and unicorns.
The pacing is slow, but deliberately so. We see Claudio’s quiet, repetitive life up close – his caring for his animals, his tending to the farm, and the poetry he doesn’t want anyone to know he writes. Slowly, this changes. First comes the appearance of the unicorn. Slowly but surely this beautiful creature changes everything. The farm and its inhabitants change first. Then, slowly, the town changes too.
I found myself particularly drawn to the setting. The beautiful Italian countryside always makes for a beautiful backdrop, but here it took particularly well to the story being told. Claudio’s farm sits on the side of a mountain – too high to for the visitors at the coast and too low to attract the skiers who flock to the region. The farm and nearby town are thus stuck in a sort of limbo. There are cell phones and cameras, but the mail is only delivered every few days and Claudio’s farm remains near void of modern technologies.
And enjoy it I did. The book remains in that liminal space between contemporary fantasy and magical realism, a place I find fascinating but often unexplored. The fantastic and the very mundane meet beautifully here. On the one hand we have a unicorn appearing and giving birth. On the other hand we have a love story, a story of learning to forgive oneself. And, overall, I quite enjoyed this book.
IN CALABRIA by Peter S. Beagle is a wonderful story that charms and enchants. I have not read nearly enough of Beagle’s books. Certainly nothing since I read The Last Unicorn as a child. This is something I must remedy, and I am very happy I started with this beautiful little novella.
Photo: Rina Weisman
Paul Robichaux enjoys the book.
Suppose unicorns were real, and that you found one hanging around your farm in rural Italy? Beagle has written a charming and moving story that revolves around the answers to those two questions. Much more enjoyable than I thought it would be at first.
For more info about IN CALABRIA, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story