16 October 2017

Forever Books: A Review of Summerlong, Peter S. Beagle

Eighty-nine dollars of credit at the local science fiction bookstore, and this girl has no idea what to buy. Heart-wrenchingly annoying, my inability to commit to book-buying has brought me to this rather frazzled day. A library soul, the concept of a forever-book seems a tad sinful. What if I bring home something I hate, or worse, never read again. That 'never to be read again' tagline beats deep down in my reading-heart, sighing for every sentence lost in time, and memory. 

My home library has some duds - annoying hard-covers that have bullied themselves onto the shelves, smugly gathering dust, showcasing lack of purpose. I stare them down monthly, ready to trek them all off to the second-hand bookstore to retract, overwhelmed with ownership guilt. And so they sit, as do I, contemplating readable-worthy book purchasing while the sun slowly glints through the fall foliage and the winds gather momentum.   

I am longing for Summerlong by Peter S Beagle. This is a book I had no intention of walking home with, but having surmised that the clerk may indeed be someone of merit, I bought it based on her recommendations. The walk home from the bookstore was grey. Spring had yet to bud, and my reading inclinations swayed to more science fiction hearty fair than Summerlong's fantastical promises. And yet I brought this little bound beauty home, to be promptly forgotten until this September. 

Situated on small island outside of Seattle, Abe and Joanna live their quiet lives, happily unmarried, weathering life's problems together. Until that day, walking into their favourite restaurant they meet Lioness and waltz into a fairy-tale. As with fairy-tales there is the light and the dark - what we hold dear, can be lost and from that loss, creation. 

Peter S. Beagle wrote the most acclaimed fantasy novel of our times, The Last Unicorn in 1968. Not a fantasy reader, my curiosity had me summoning the book through the library system to sit down one afternoon, to be thoroughly stunned. There are few first chapters written that attain a level of wonder found in The Last Unicorn. But this is my ode to Summerlong, a book forgotten, that brought me great joy as the Toronto September temperatures soared, and my summer seemed to last forever.  

Summerlong, Beagle's most recent and more accessible novel is perfection. Every word has purpose, each tangled detail sculpts the characters into being, each chapter reflects the complexity of life. There are few authors who can properly assimilate the world of myth and gods into present day fiction without the story becoming overwhelmingly supernatural. The unimaginative becomes real - that what modern civilization has lost is summoned forth in Summerlong. 

A gem, something to be cherished, re-read and shared, Peter S. Beagle's Summerlong proudly sits on my book-shelf. 

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