Four fresh reviews of Peter Beagle’s flawless SUMMERLONG.
Photo: Rina Weisman
The September issue of LOCUS offers two glowing reviews of the magical novel.
Gary K. Wolfe:
In a LOCUS interview
nearly a decade ago, Peter Beagle described the
plot and setting of SUMMERLONG in enough detail to suggest he’s
been fiddling with the novel for a long time, and given the string of remarkable short
fiction he’s produced in that time – some
clearly autobiographical, much of it grounded in a
sort of domestic realism that might surprise
readers only familiar with THE LAST UNICORN –
we’ve had good reason to eagerly anticipate the first
novel in many years from one of the world’s
great fantasists. It’s a pleasure to report that
SUMMERLONG, while somewhat modest in scope and just as
fully grounded in convincing and amiable characters as Beagle’s
short fiction, is not a disappointment. It’s a lovely, graceful, quiet meditation on
matters of aging, families, art, love,
relationships, and (since this is Beagle) Greek mythology.
There may seem much that is familiar in
the archetypal tale of a waif who transforms the
lives of those around her, but in Beagle’s hands
those lives are worth reading about entirely on
Peter S. Beagle is
not a simple writer. His best books and stories
are an amalgam of the bitter and the
sweet, the expected and the totally surprising.
SUMMERLONG is an excellent example. By turns
achingly beautiful and soberingly down-to-earth,
it is a fantasy for those who have grown up with
fantasy and are now finding themselves older
than they ever imagined they would become.
He helps us see
what’s important, now. It’s not a happy vision; it’s
a necessary one. This is a novel that should be
a major award winner: I’d love to see it get
the Hugo. It will, if the Hugo voters (with Beagle)
have been growing older. If they haven’t, this
book will speak to them in a couple of decades,
and they’ll wonder why they didn’t see how
important it was when it came out. If THE LAST UNICORN
is about growing beyond adolescence,
SUMMERLONG is about growing old and still growing,
still working to make this life important when one
is past menopause or past the age when young
people start dismissing us. This is a book readers
will come back to. Read it now. You’ll want to
read it later as well.
Ian White at STARBURST praises the book.
Peter S. Beagle’s latest novel is a bewitching, impossible-to-categorise masterpiece. Is it a romance, a fairytale, or a fantasy that straddles reality and mythology, with (especially in the scenes involving Joanna and a strangely out-of-time old man called Mr. Mardikian) the slightest hint of wonderful supernatural romcoms like ‘Bell Book and Candle’ and ‘I Married a Witch’? Or is it suggesting that we are never too old to chase our dreams, even if our dreams come at a price, so maybe we should be careful what we wish for? It is probably all of these and more, and even if you find yourself half-guessing Lioness’s secret long before it is actually revealed, the climax will still take you by surprise and may even break your heart a little. With prose that is more akin to poetry, Beagle’s storytelling casts a spell as potent as Lioness’s magic – if magic is what it is – and his characters, especially Abe and Joanna, are exquisite creations. It’s so good to read a story wherein older people are allowed to be the ‘heroes’ of the adventure, and not relegated to the supporting cast. As a fantasy, this might not have enough darkness for many readers, but as a work of fantastical art it is flawless.
LIFE HAS A FUNNY WAY enjoys SUMMERLONG.
SUMMERLONG is the second Peter S Beagle novel I have read. The first being THE LAST UNICORN which is one of my all time favourite books (and films). I guess I was expecting something along the same with SUMMERLONG.
I was wrong though. SUMMERLONG is nothing like THE LAST UNICORN. It is a far more adult book but that doesn’t make it any less magical.
The story follows twists and turns through a maze of feelings and couple’s secrets, to the glue which holds them together to the stitches which tear them apart. Peter S Beagle weaves myth and magic into a modern setting in a way which is truly magnificent. The writing style compares slightly to Lauren Groff’s FATES AND FURIES but where Groff’s novel wraps itself in knots and over-complicates Beagle weaves a story which is eloquent in a none egotistical way.
An enchanting and woeful story of love, myth and magic.
For more info on SUMMERLONG, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover art by Magdalena Korzeniewska
Design by Elizabeth Story