Tamsin, Peter Beagle

When she reached the first tree she swung around it to face me, and if the trees looked like men, she looked as young as Julian.”Still here – oh, still here!” she called – halfway singing, really. “Oh, still holding to Stourhead earth, they and I.” She hooked her arm around the tree and swung again, as though she was dancing with it. I knew she couldn’t have touched it, felt the bark or the dry leaves, any more than I could have felt her arm against mine – but nobody looks as beautiful, as joyous, as Tamsin looked right then when they’re feeling nothing.

“I saw my father plant these trees,” she said as I came up with her. “And see them now, grown so great and grim – stripped and battered by the years, yet still here, unyielding.” She wheeled toward the beech trees again, asking them, “Were you waiting for me then, little ones, all this time? Would you ask my sanction before you fall? Well, I do not grant it, do you hear me? Nay, if I’m to stay on, so shall you – and I am even older, so you’ll mind what I say. Whiles I remain at Stourhead, you’re to keep me company, as Roger my father bade you. Hear!”

So this is what happened with Tamsin: One year my mum espied this book, Tamsin, by the same dude who wrote The Last Unicorn, and because my family’s gift life is very hardcore about giving each other books that we think are going to be good, she bought it for my sister Anna, the biggest Last Unicorn fan of the four of us, for her Christmas stocking. With excellent intentions, she (my mum) started to read a bit of it to check it was good enough to be a stocking stuffer. Then she couldn’t stop reading it, and she read the whole thing. Then she bought Anna a fresh unread copy. Then she bought copies for everyone else in the family.

That’s how good a book it is.

The other day I was getting ready to go to the rec center, and I had picked out two books to read while I was working out, and they were two wondrous and captivating books: The Color Purple – which I might add I haven’t read for two years (holy shit, I cannot believe it has been that long) and was thus absolutely aching to read – and The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, which I had forgotten about until recently. These two books were on the kitchen counter ready to go, but then I remembered I wanted to glance at the topics for my Victorian lit paper, and I had to download them and my computer was running slow and what with one thing and another I grabbed Tamsin to read while I was waiting for that to work. I wasn’t even reading for two minutes, literally, but when I went to put Tamsin down and go exercise, my hand wouldn’t let go of it. Even though, even though, I had these two completely brilliant books waiting for me on the kitchen counter.

That’s how good a book it is.

It’s about a girl called Jenny (hooray! I <3 heroines called Jenny!) whose mum gets married to a British farmer and so they move to a British farm – where, may I say, they have big thunderstorms, a phenomenon I observed precisely never in my nine months in England so either Peter Beagle is using poetic license or I was in the completely wrong part of England. The farm is in Dorset and has many spooky things: a boggart and a pooka and a Black Dog and, hooray, the ghost of a Stuart-era girl called Tamsin with a messy past now leaking into the present and needing to be sorted.

Tamsin is a gorgeous book. Mr. Beagle really does make such a good group of interesting, vivid characters and a really interesting, vivid plot, and I certainly do wish we could get hold of his latest book. Tamsin is just so lovely and I always do get sad when it ends. Luckily I have The Color Purple and The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail to console me. If they’ll take me back.