Toby Warring is a magician. Not a "pull a rabbit from the hat" magician, but one who has the ability to reach into other dimensions and produce real magic. He and Mel Snow meet and marry quickly, and their life journey follows the consequences of Toby's magic. It is a story about losing things, and the price one is willing to pay to find what has been lost.
The storyline is utterly original. There are echoes of Alice Hoffman, but the story is completely the author's own. This is no formulaic plot, but one that kept me in a constant state of fascination.
The writing is gorgeous. I am in awe of the author's ability to use words. The author paints word pictures using every dazzling colour in the universe. Each sentence is a masterpiece of art. I feel that it is this use of words, even more so than the plot, that leads the reader from the first sentence to the last.
A theme of lostness runs through the story like a river, sometimes a gentle babbling brook and other times a raging creek that threatens to burst its banks. And in the end the river empties into the sea, a vast expanse that both hides and exposes the essential meaning of "lost."
"The Art of Disappearing" is Pochoda's first novel. She can't write a second one soon enough for me. (less)
“Tam Lin” is an ancient Scottish ballad that tells the story of how Tam Lin is rescued from the Queen of the Fairies by his true love, Janet. The firs...more“Tam Lin” is an ancient Scottish ballad that tells the story of how Tam Lin is rescued from the Queen of the Fairies by his true love, Janet. The first recorded version of the song appears in the 1549 book "The Complaynt of Scotland.”
Tam Lin abides in the Forest of Carterhaugh, where he collects either a possession or the virginity of any maidens who pass through the wood. One of these girls, Janet, discovers she is pregnant after her encounter with Tam Lin, and returns to the Forest of Carterhaugh. Tam Lin explains to her that he is bound to the Queen of the Fairies, and he fears for his life, because every seven years a tithe to hell must be paid to appease the Queen. Only Janet can rescue Tam Lin from this fate.
In Pamela Dean’s modern retelling of the Scottish ballad, Janet is a student at Blackstock College in Minnesota. Much of the book chronicles her life as a university student and all the requisite complicated relationships with roommates, first loves, and professors.
There are hints that there is something strange going on at Blackstock - an eerie professor, a bizarre group of Classics majors, a ghost who tosses books from a window, and a midnight horse ride that takes place every Halloween. These elements are all almost background, though, and seem secondary to the plot of everyday college life.
This portion of the book is somewhat interesting, in a voyeuristic sort of way, as all the intricate details of the lives and relationships of Janet, her roommates, and their boyfriends are shared in all their day-by-day happenings. It does get a bit tedious, however, especially things like lengthy expositions of plays they attend, or their habit of speaking to each other using quotes from literature.
Only in the last 50 pages of the book do the parallels with the ballad begin to occur, and with these happenings, the previous mysteries are all explained. As in the ballad, Janet begins a relationship with Thomas Lane (same initials as Tam Lin) and becomes pregnant during an encounter in Charter Hall (sounds like Carterhaugh, the forest in the ballad). She then must rescue him from the Queen of the Fairies, who is the eerie professor. It all ties together in a nice neat conclusion, but the rapidity with which it occurs is rather jarring.
“Tam Lin” is well written (aside from the author’s obsessive use of the semi-colon). It was a compelling read that I got through quickly, even though the book is just over 400 pages. As a fairytale retelling, though, I found it rather disappointing. Overall, I would rate “Tam Lin” 3 Stars. If the fairytale elements had been introduced earlier in the story, and if there had been a bit more mysticism, I would have given it 4 Stars. (less)
Fourteen year old Fern Drawn and her family move to the sheep ranch they have inherited from her grandfather. Fern quits school to herd the sheep, and the Drawn family battles Mother Nature and the poverty of the Great Depression.
The Cleavers wrote several young adult books in the 70s and 80s, and were featured on several reading lists at the time. When searching for a book set in South Dakota for a 50 State Reading Challenge, I found this book by the Cleavers. I vaguely recalled reading their other works in my childhood, so I decided to use this book to fulfill the South Dakota requirement for the Challenge.
It isn't a bad book, per se. The worst thing is the dialogue - three year old George and the town doctor have the same voice. All in all, it's an okay but completely unremarkable book, and it's obvious why the Cleavers' books have not stood the test of time and have mostly faded into obscurity.(less)