Peter S. Beagle’s SUMMERLONG is a delicate and interesting work of speculative fiction
Four new reviews for Peter Beagle’s excellent SUMMERLONG.
In INTERZONE 266, Maureen Kincaid
Speller praises the book.
My relationship with
Peter S. Beagle’s writing is a long one, and enduring. I read THE
LAST UNICORN in the early 1970s, and was enchanted by it. A year or
so later I found a copy of his astonishingly accomplished first
novel, A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE, which similarly delighted me. It
must be galling for any writer to be remembered best for their
earliest work, but there it is. Beagle has written some excellent
fantasy novels since, and some wonderful short stories, but somehow
nothing has ever quite hit the spot, for me at least, in the same way
as those two early novels. Until now.
Which is not to say
that SUMMERLONG is a faithful replica of either novel. It is quite
definitely its own thing but while clearly showing its relationship
to A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE in terms of atmosphere, and THE LAST
UNICORN in terms of plot, the latter noted by other reviewers.
The question I have
asked myself all along is whether SUMMERLONG is a retreat to an old
and reliable formula. However, I don’t think this is the case.
While SUMMERLONG undeniably revisits earlier themes, there is much
about it that is fresh and new, not least the portrayal of a tender
long-term relationship between two older people (a genuine rarity in
modern literature, and certainly in modern fantasy writing). The
fantastical elements are undoubtedly more evanescent than in the
earlier novels but that is perhaps unsurprising given the worldy-wise
natures of our protagonists. If, as we are often told, change is the
only constant, then SUMMERLONG seems to suggest that while change may
be slower to come as one grows older, it will nonetheless arrive, and
in the most shocking and inconvenient ways possible. SUMMERLONG
reminds us that we can never taken anything for granted, and that
includes our assumptions about a much-loved and familiar writer.
Leah Dearborn at LIT REACTOR gives the novel the Bookshots treatment.
Beagle spends his time crafting a world through small moments and little details— silent dialogues of caught glances or shifting eyes, the kinds of clothing characters wear or what they like to cook for dinner. In SUMMERLONG, these details read as more than mere character development, they’re also a convenient camouflage for the more fantastic elements. The author leaves a sparse trail of bread crumbs for readers to follow, stomping on the brakes whenever there’s danger of too much information leaking at once. Just when something unusual happens, the story quickly slips back into a smokescreen of dinner party conversation.
In short, SUMMERLONG is a delicate and interesting work of speculative fiction that should please old Beagle fans and win him a few new ones.
At SFREVU, Gayle Surrette enjoys the work.
The story builds slowly throughout. The points of view moves among Abe, Joanna, and Lily, but it keeps the reader engrossed as the relationships shift and change and the background of the characters are revealed to the reader. The ending is inevitable, but the changes in the lives touched by Lioness may or may not be for the best. But only the characters themselves can attest to that, while the reader may think things could have been different.
An excellent story of love, relationships, and responsibility with much to think about after the last page is read.
Photo: Paul Todisco
THE QUIDNUNCINC loved SUMMERLONG.
Where I come from we have those amazing transition days from summer to fall, where the sun is still warm, but the rain and the wind remind you that October is close, you begin to smell pumpkin and apple pies from every corner, you see people beginning to wrap themselves in warm scarfs and sweaters, still bearing the sun-kissed skin on their faces. It is one of the most beautiful seasons of the year, for me at least. Like one of those days, Peter S. Beagle’s upcoming novel, SUMMERLONG, is charmingly quiet yet deeply thoughtful, with an ambience that will keep readers spellbound to the final page. It is the kind of read you will engage in from beneath you warm blanket while the rain is sweetly whispering its words on the window and you are reminiscing amazing, wild memories of summer. You are going to taste that book, smell it and feel its warmth from the cover to the very last word in it.
SUMMERLONG relies upon Beagle’s literary mastery for its success. The setting on a small island outside of Seattle becomes an extra protagonist to the story as our characters conduct their day-to-day lives. From the fish markets of Seattle to the quiet peace of island life, Beagle paints a vivid picture of the community in which these characters live, and sets the foundation for the changes he will visit upon them. It’s a strange novel, blending the monotony of day-to-day living with the world of myths and legends, and even in the spots where it is uplifting, you can’t help but catch a hint of sadness and melancholy, as the choices that allow the characters to find new joys or ease their pain bring entirely new problems.
If I have to strip it to basics SUMMERLONG is a rather deep exploration of both points of view in the grand myth of Persephone and Hades, too, so it’s actually rather rich in contemplation. It is very introspective and I often found myself distracted by my own thought, because I found pieces of my own doubts and struggles connected with the characters’ battles. It was an eye-opening read. I did surface from in as a melancholic mermaid from an ocean of thoughts and feelings, but I found a lot of hope and content, just like those last rays of sun that sneak in-between the falling autumn leaves.
I loved it. I lived it.
And I think you should tool
For more info on SUMMERLONG, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover art by Magdalena Korzeniewska
Design by Elizabeth Story
For more info on A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Ann Monn