My rating: 4.5 of 5
Thirteen-year-old Jenny is anything but happy about her mother’s remarriage–to an Englishman, no less!–the acquisition of two new stepbrothers, and their move from New York City across the ocean to an old farm in Dorset, England. Not that she was happy about much at that point in her life, except maybe her beloved cat, Mister Cat. It didn’t help that Evan, Jenny’s new stepfather, was actually a really nice guy, one who tried to get along with her and make things work. And little could any of them expect the things they would encounter in Dorset once they arrived–ghosts and boggarts and the like–and Jenny would encounter more than the rest combined. Because it was at that old farm in Dorset that Jenny met Tamsin, a lonely girl who had been dead for hundreds of years and who would become one of Jenny’s closest friends.
I very much enjoyed Beagle’s classic story, The Last Unicorn, and so I was thrilled to find he had published other works, among them this enchanting story, Tamsin. In some ways, this book is similar to what I had read before–it’s a thoughtful fantasy that looks deeply into the thoughts and motives of its characters. But in that it is set in our own contemporary world, seen through the eyes of a young girl, it is very different. Jenny is a wonderful character, not because she’s so good, but because she’s so real. She says in the story that you forget what it’s like to be thirteen, because you have to in order to survive. It’s true, you know? But she’s so clear a picture of all the raw emotions and unsettledness of that age that you can remember, just for a few minutes. And I think it’s important to remember, just as it’s important to be able to forget and move on–and yes, I know that sentence doesn’t make sense at all, but it’s no less true for all that. The choices Jenny makes, the way she sees things, and the growth that occurs in her throughout the story are all a huge part of what makes this book so good. Added to that, you’ve got an excellent mix of the darker folklore and history of that area, come terrifyingly to life. This book is absolutely dark and scary. And it’s all the better for it. I would warn that this book, while about a thirteen-year-old, is not for thirteen-year-olds; it’s an adult book, that’s for sure. But for adult readers who enjoy a dark, thoughtful, but exciting fantasy, Tamsin is definitely recommended.