Four fresh reviews of Peter Beagle’s brilliant SUMMERLONG.
In THE NEW YORK TIMES, N. K. Jemsin praises the novel.
The hook here is Beagle’s realism, which so ably captures the satisfactions and frustrations of these “people of a certain age,” as well as those of the more restless Lily. By turns of phrase, Seattle’s brief summer becomes a character here too, as Lioness’s presence causes any number of peculiar disruptions to the natural and social order. A baby orca nearly beaches itself in what might be homage; the most charismatic people at a dinner party are shown up in their pettiness; and the smell of a summer meadow manifests in the oddest of places. Lioness herself is too much of an archetype to feel as real as Joanna and Abe and Lily, but this is probably intentional, since it’s fairly clear early on that she’s Not From Around Here. The mystery of her true identity — which, again, feels intentionally non-mysterious past Chapter 2 or so — is secondary, probably because the story is really about how ordinary people change, and are changed by, the numinous.
It’s a rare story of summer that feels like the summer — like dreamy intense passions rising and arcing and then spinning away; like beauty underlaid with a tinge of sadness because it is ephemeral. Beagle has captured that seasonal warmth here, beautifully, magically.
Nancy Hightower for THE WASHINGTON POST lauds the book.
But someone is hunting the young woman, too, and Abe and his family realize that they are caught up in a much bigger story of love, desire and a long-ago promise. Beagle uses an ancient myth as a backdrop, creating a brilliant stage to explore the personal dynamic of Abe and Joanna’s vibrant yet deteriorating relationship.
Peter S. Beagle (right) in discussion with Tad Williams at Kepler’s Books on Thursday, Oct 6 (photo: Rina Weisman)
TEA LEAVES recommends the fantasy.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A reader can always count on Peter S. Beagle to create a clear and gentle setting, one that the reader wishes she could escape to. In this case, it’s an island off the coast of Seattle, with clear waters for kayaking, a long-established diner, and a long-established, older couple, settled into comfortable patterns. Abe writes scholarly books and works on perfecting his harmonica skills. Del is a flight attendant whose senses and sensibilities seem to provide clarity. Into this setting drops an enigma – an ethereally lovely young woman named Lioness – and the patterns slowly unravel as everyone falls in love with her. Even Nature seems to fall in love with her, as flowers grow wild and breezes stay balmy.
Beagle’s descriptions are golden, as always, and a certain wistfulness pervades, as always. The reader might not be happy with the outcome of this novel, but myths don’t always end well, do they?
MIRABILE DICTU enjoys SUMMERLONG.
This book is very slight but lovely. Occasionally Abe and Joanna’s encounters with the gods are jarring, but the blurring of boundaries between the triangle of gods and humans is very sophisticated. I think this is worth a second read. I am adding it to my collection of retold fairy tales and myths.
For more info on SUMMERLONG, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover art by Magdalena Korzeniewska
Design by Elizabeth Story