by: Peter S. Beagle
Originally published Oct. 1, 1999
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Peter S. Beagle creates magic in this coming-of-age ghost story, returning to a subgenre he first explored in A Fine and Private Place. When her mother remarries, 13-year-old narrator Jenny Gluckstein moves from New York City to a run-down, haunted, 300-year-old farm in Dorset, England. In slow-moving early chapters, unhappy Jenny's beloved Mister Cat is quarantined for six months and she must attend an English girl's school. Jenny's voice is painfully genuine, her self-description merciless. If early adolescence brings on flashbacks, wait to read this book.
The pace picks up when Mister Cat returns and Jenny meets Meena Chari, whose belief in the supernatural comes from growing up in ghost-ridden India. First Mister Cat finds a new girlfriend, a ghostly Persian Cat only he and Jenny can see. Then she and her younger stepbrother, Julian, confront a boggart who's been playing tricks on the family. The gnome-like boggart is dressed in a Seven Dwarves hat, Robin Hood garb, "and heavy little boots, ankle-high--I'd have taken them for Doc Martens, except I don't think they make them in boggart sizes." The boggart warns her to beware of the ghost cat, her mistress, and "the Other One" most of all. But one afternoon she follows Mister Cat to meet Tamsin Willoughby, ghost of the farm-founder's daughter. Tamsin is friendly, but won't tell Jenny anything about the Other One, or talk about Edric, apparently her lost love. To free Tamsin's ghost, Jenny must relive the tragic history of 17th-century Dorset and face grave danger.
Tamsin is vintage Beagle: there's a shape-shifting Pooka, a ghostly love story, music, the Goddess, and the Wild Hunt. It's beautifully written and can be read on several levels, including as a loving homage to Thomas Hardy's moody novels (Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Far from the Madding Crowd) and poetry (Selected Poems). Or you can lose yourself in the story. Fans of The Last Unicorn will enjoy this one. --Nona Vero