Tamsin by Peter S. Beagle

tamsin1.jpgThere’s a quote on the back of my copy of Tamsin by Peter Beagle from The Orlando Sentinel that says “This is a book that any Beagle fan must have, and will convert any newcomers to his magical works.” And I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. I think that I enjoyed this one even more than Beagle’s The Last Unicorn which I read last year for the Once Upon a Time challenge.

Tamsin is a little bit fantasy, a little bit horror, a little bit of a coming of age story, and a ghostly love story all combined into one. It’s written as a first person narrative looking back at the past..telling a story, from the point of view of young Jenny Gluckstein, 13 at the time of the events of the book, 19 when she’s writing it. After growing up in New York as an only with her mother who she calls “Sally”, she moves to Dorset in England to live with her mother’s fiancee and his two sons against her wishes. She has to leave her two only friends in the states and move from a city life to a small country, farming life in the country side of England and nothing about it sounds appealing to her. The only saving grace she has is her beloved cat, Mr. Cat, who if I say so myself is one of the best written animal characters I’ve read in awhile.

On the drive up to Dorset, Jenny’s new stepdad, Evan tells her of all of the myths and legends surrounding Dorset. There are said to be boggarts, brownie like creatures that invade homes…ghosts that haunt the area from past times, creatures that roam the forests, and a wild hunt that chases ghosts throughout the night. And then there is the Pooka, a black horse with golden eyes that you can never trust. But of course all of this is legend…fun stuff not to be taken seriously. They arrive at Stourhead Farm, their new home, and it’s an old home with lots of history. Jenny slowly makes friends with her young stepbrother Julian as they begin to notice that there are odd sounds in the house and things go awry on their own.

One night while lying in bed with Mr. Cat, Jenny notices a second cat leap onto her bed…but this cat isn’t quite solid…it’s somewhat transparent. But Mr. Cat takes a liking to her anyway. Jenny soon finds that the cat belongs to no other than a ghost named Tamsin. A woman who has lived at Stourhead Farm for over 300 years. The resulting story is a beautiful one that takes the reader on a fantastic adventure filled with amazing creatures and a mystery to be untangled. Why is Tamsin still here after 300 years and what happened to her beloved Edric?

My experience with Beagle has been that he writes such original stories. He tells such a wonderful fantasy tale with great twists, an original point of view, and he adds such heart to the story. There’s such a strong emotional aspect to this story. Very strong themes of friendship, love, betrayal, bonding, etc. Each character that he writes has so much thought put into them. There are no “wasted characters” in this book. I loved (or loved to hate) each and every one of them. The point is that I really cared about this book and that’s not something that always happens.

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23 Responses

  1. Oh, I want it, I want it, I want it!!! I was sold with “a little bit fantasy, a little bit horror, a little bit of a coming of age story, and a ghostly love story all combined into one”…and then you went and made it even more irresistible by mentioning boggarts! (Gray and I have been quite intrigued by boggarts since reading The Spiderwick Chronicles.) Anyway, thanks Chris, for the great review! I feel like running out to pick this one up RIGHT NOW!

  2. Sounds good. Will have to check and see if it’s at the library.

  3. A cat named Mr. Cat! I love it! I would be adding this to my list if it weren’t there already. I want to read it even more after this fabulous review!

  4. darn, this sounds good!.. double darn.. only in mass paperback! I don’t know when to say hooray and when not to anymore! lol…

  5. Becky, I’m sure you’ll be able to find this one at the library. It’s really good!

    Nymeth, I thought about you with Mr. Cat because I know how much you love cats! You’ll love this one. He has so much personality and I’m not even that much of a cat fan. It was such a great book…enjoy it!

    Deslily, You’ll love this one! You have to read it…I got my copy from BookCloseouts and it was a tradepaperback, but the print was still small 😦 That’s the reason it took me so long to read this one…I get frustrated with small print and can’t read it for long…but it was such a good book and I thought about you too while I was reading it. I think you’d love it!

  6. hmmm I looked for it over there, guess they are out of it and amazon is doing used and “mass paperback”.. and that’s way too small for my eyes anymore.

    Yeah I suffer through books with small print too! IT’s the one big downfall about buying books on line.. we can’t see the size of the print first!

  7. oh, this sounds sweet. I like stories with step-siblings getting acquainted. And the step-dad sounds sweet too. But then you said….. “folks you love to hate” which got me all worried. I hope it’s ONLY the folks in the past who we hate. Great review. One i’d like to read definitely. -C

  8. I happen to like The Last Unicorn better, but Tamsin is the only ghost story I’ve ever read that I really enjoyed as well.

  9. I popped by your blog via 1morechapter.com and was thrilled to see this post, as I’m just about to finish reading The Last Unicorn, and am loving it. So thanks for the post. I’ll have to get my hands on this one.

  10. Better than The Last Unicorn? Surely not possible! I am adding this to the top of my list of books to get when I am allowed a reward. I feel like I haven’t rad anywhere near enough of his books.

  11. I’m already well past any reasonable limit on my amazon wishlist, but here I go, adding another book. And it’s ALL YOUR FAULT! πŸ˜€

  12. Deslily, I feel your pain! There’s nothing I hate more than getting a new book in the mail and seeing that it has tiny print…I just know that It’s going to take me forever to read those!

    Carole, It was a sweet book…and sad, and funny and everything else! I love the step family dynamic as well. It worked perfectly for the book. As far as characters that you love to hate, they’re characters from the past so you can breathe a sigh of relief πŸ˜‰ Ghosts from the past to be exact who want to exact revenge on friendly ghosts…quite sad actually 😦

    Jeane, Maybe it’s just because I haven’t read The Last Unicorn in my mind and Beagle is just such a good author that he swept me away with this story…who knows. But I did LOVE the Last Unicorn as well. I have a review of it on this site that you can probably find by searching for it in that little box up top. I still haven’t seen the animated movie and I really need to fix that!

    Olduvai, Glad you stopped by! Isn’t the Last Unicorn great? I read it last year around this time of the year and fell in love with it. In fact, that book was the reason that I bought Tamsin. Now I just have to find my next Peter Beagle book! He’s written quite a few. Hope you hang around!

    Rhinoa, I know…it’s a sin! I feel the same way, like I haven’t read enough of Beagle’s books. I bought the new chapbook that him and Lisa Snellings-Clark did, but that’s not coming until April because I ordered the signed copy. But this one is totally different from The Last Unicorn in that it’s a totally different kind of story. So it’s really hard to compare. I just loved reading it.

    Heather, Heh…sorry! I’m well past the reasonable limit on mine too but I keep adding and adding and adding….lol…it’s bad, huh?

  13. Copies of the original trade paperback edition of TAMSIN, with larger type — and personally signed by Peter! — are still available through Conlan Press (http://www.conlanpress.com).

    Also, please cross your fingers, everyone. Peter and I are working on a new film treatment of TAMSIN to show around Hollywood, working with one of the producers of Disney’s THE LITTLE MERMAID. We still have hope that someday this tale will make it to the screen.

  14. Connor, That is all fantastic news! Thanks so much. I’ll definitely be heading over to pick up a signed copy of Tamsin. And I would absolutely love to see a film version of Tamsin. It would translate beautifully to the screen. I can see it now. I think Disney’s The Little Mermaid was one of their best accomplishments, so what a great team that would be. I’ll certainly be keeping my fingers crossed. And I’ll mention the signed edition of Tamsin in my next post.

  15. O dear, don’t go for the animated film. I didn’t like it at all. Too silly and exaggerated. But my husb loves it (he never read the book) so it might be alright .

  16. Great review, and now I really really want to read it! It’s already on my newest ‘to buy’ list….but that combination of ‘a little bit fantasy, a little bit horror’ …. made my heart go pitter-pat…and ghosts too!!! I must get this book!

  17. I still haven’t read any Beagle. *shakes head in shame*.

  18. Jeane, Really? That’s the first bad review I’ve heard of the animated film. I’m like that with books that I love too though…the film versions rarely rarely measure up.

    Susan, I hope you do read it! It’s a perfect mix of fantasy and horror…absolutely love it. Totally agree that you must get this book πŸ˜‰

    Carl, Well you’ll just have to get you a copy of Strange Roads! I ordered mine already…hope it comes soon!

  19. […] Snellings-Clark’s collaboration, Strange Roads or some cool The Last Unicorn stuff!I just reviewed Tamsin the other day and it’s a wonderful book. He also told me that he is working with Peter Beagle […]

  20. I just received this book from a bookmooch and now I’m really excited to read it. But I wished I had known about autographed copies. I really enjoyed your review.

  21. Hey Framed! So glad that you got a copy of this book! It’s incredible. I’m still looking back fondly at it and it keeps popping in my head. I wish I had known about the signed copies before too…I would’ve loved to get one of those…think I still will!

  22. […] with: I loved Peter Beagle’s Tamsin! I’ve never read Beagle before, but Nymeth and Chris both recommended this one. I managed to completely forget everything about it except that they […]

  23. […] People like Eva, Chris and Ana started talking about this one, and I knew I’d have to right my wrong, and what […]

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