book reviews by Althea

Review: In Calabria

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In Calabria
In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Claudio Bianchi is a rural Italian who’s gone out of his way to assure his solitude. He hangs out with his dog and his goat, and his social contact is often limited to the mailman who drops off the junk adverts. But then, one day, a unicorn appears on his land. Bianchi, a secret poet, is perhaps the ideal type of person to appreciate the magical beast with his combination of rustic earthiness and appreciation of beauty. He wants to keep the creature’s secrets and to help as he can with what she needs.

However, in our modern world, secrecy is difficult. Soon, the postman’s lovely sister discovers the unicorn as well. Less felicitously, so does the local mob. It may come down to what Claudio is willing to sacrifice in order to preserve the magic…

The writing is lovely and lyrical – a quiet book, but with enough tension to keep a reader moving along. Still, I would say the same thing about this book as I did about Beagle’s last book, ‘Summerlong’ – it’s “fantasy for older people.” I believe that at one point in the book, Claudio is described as being in his late 40s. That’s not that old! However, he’s written as if he’s much older. I ‘felt’ like he was 65, at least. This is partially explained by his life situation, but he spends a great deal of the book moaning about how he’s ‘too old’ for his 20-something love interest. He’s not *really* too old, but his protesting had me pretty much convinced that he was – and the fact that this is the second book of Beagle’s in a row to feature an ‘older’ man rejuvenated by the love of a beautiful ‘younger’ woman makes me feel a little bit uncomfortably “Woody Allen” about it all.

I’m still sticking with 4 stars due to the loveliness of the writing, and the deft touch that introduces the glimpse of the sublime into a too-modern, too-coarse world.

Many thanks to Tachyon and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are unaffected by the source of the book.

View all my reviews


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