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In Calabria

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From the acclaimed author of The Last Unicorn comes a new, exquisitely-told unicorn fable for the modern age.

Claudio Bianchi has lived alone for many years on a hillside in Southern Italy’s scenic Calabria. Set in his ways and suspicious of outsiders, Claudio has always resisted change, preferring farming and writing poetry. But one chilly morning, as though from a dream, an impossible visitor appears at the farm. When Claudio comes to her aid, an act of kindness throws his world into chaos. Suddenly he must stave off inquisitive onlookers, invasive media, and even more sinister influences.

Lyrical, gripping, and wise, In Calabria confirms Peter S. Beagle's continuing legacy as one of fantasy's most legendary authors.

176 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2017

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About the author

Peter S. Beagle

214 books2,695 followers
Peter Soyer Beagle (born April 20, 1939) is an American fantasist and author of novels, nonfiction, and screenplays. He is also a talented guitarist and folk singer. He wrote his first novel, A Fine and Private Place , when he was only 19 years old. Today he is best known as the author of The Last Unicorn, which routinely polls as one of the top ten fantasy novels of all time, and at least two of his other books (A Fine and Private Place and I See By My Outfit) are considered modern classics.

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5 stars
613 (25%)
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656 (27%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 436 reviews
Profile Image for Spencer Orey.
514 reviews108 followers
April 14, 2019
The miraculous effect a unicorn can have on a life!

This was a surprisingly tender book.

I love the idea that when a unicorn shows up in your life, it brings out the absolute best in you. Truly beautiful here, and more accessible in a way than the fantasy setting of the Last Unicorn.

It's another very focused fantasy book though, which I really appreciated. This one almost never leaves the space of a small farm.

I'm honestly not sure about a few things in it (the representation of Italy and Calabria in particular, the age difference in the romance, the kind of unknowable magic of the unicorns).

But I'm moved and inspired by what I read.
So I'm just going to sit with that.
Profile Image for Philip.
496 reviews660 followers
November 10, 2017
3.5ish stars.

Wistful and lovely in a lot of ways. The man knows his unicorns. I immediately felt for Claudio, older than his 47 years (it felt like he was 85), and I would totally live on that farm. His relationship with La Signora is beautiful and the book really shines when it's just the two of them and the farm animals. Once the people come in (humans ruin everything), the book crashes back down to earth and becomes much less exciting. Overall simple, sweet and enjoyable.
Profile Image for Rachael.
139 reviews76 followers
July 15, 2022
This was a beautiful short story, that I stumbled across on Audible plus. The main character Claudio Bianchi, is a grumpy old Italian farmer, and he seems fine with his simple life in rural Calabria. Until one day a Unicorn appears in his vineyard, and upends his quiet life. The lyrical writing, humor, Italian influence, magical realism, and great narrator, made this an enjoyable book.

“He would have indeed taken it for an illusion if “Cherubino” (his goat)… Anarchist and atheist like all goats, had not remained kneeling.”
A quote from the first unicorn sighting. 😂

I thought this was going to be a solid 4 stars… until an unexpected romance happened and the mafia appeared. Maybe it’s just me, but Bianchi seemed like he was 70-80 years old (even though he’s supposedly in his late 40’s?!?) I usually try not to include spoilers in my reviews, but the fact he developed a relationship with a very young woman, and he kept referring to her as a little girl, somewhat disturbed me. I honestly felt like they had a grandfather/granddaughter or uncle/niece dynamic, so when they became romantically involved�� I was shocked. I also don’t understand why the mafia needed to be involved in this story? As someone with an Italian heritage, I find so many “Italian” centered books include this negative stereotype.

That being said, I still liked this book! My inner child adored how inspiring and meaningful the interactions with the unicorn were. And even though the large age gap romance was a surprise, there were still a few cute moments.

2.75 stars rounded up…
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,232 reviews998 followers
June 13, 2017
Claudio Bianchi is a rural Italian who's gone out of his way to assure his solitude. He hangs out with his dog and his goat, and his social contact is often limited to the mailman who drops off the junk adverts. But then, one day, a unicorn appears on his land. Bianchi, a secret poet, is perhaps the ideal type of person to appreciate the magical beast with his combination of rustic earthiness and appreciation of beauty. He wants to keep the creature's secrets and to help as he can with what she needs.

However, in our modern world, secrecy is difficult. Soon, the postman's lovely sister discovers the unicorn as well. Less felicitously, so does the local mob. It may come down to what Claudio is willing to sacrifice in order to preserve the magic...

The writing is lovely and lyrical - a quiet book, but with enough tension to keep a reader moving along. Still, I would say the same thing about this book as I did about Beagle's last book, 'Summerlong' - it's "fantasy for older people." I believe that at one point in the book, Claudio is described as being in his late 40s. That's not that old! However, he's written as if he's much older. I 'felt' like he was 65, at least. This is partially explained by his life situation, but he spends a great deal of the book moaning about how he's 'too old' for his 20-something love interest. He's not *really* too old, but his protesting had me pretty much convinced that he was - and the fact that this is the second book of Beagle's in a row to feature an 'older' man rejuvenated by the love of a beautiful 'younger' woman makes me feel a little bit uncomfortably "Woody Allen" about it all.

I'm still sticking with 4 stars due to the loveliness of the writing, and the deft touch that introduces the glimpse of the sublime into a too-modern, too-coarse world.

Many thanks to Tachyon and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are unaffected by the source of the book.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,461 reviews926 followers
July 25, 2019
You need to let a unicorn come into your life. If you don’t have one handy, Peter S Beagle can provide you with the basic kit for finding and caring for a supernatural beast of wonder.

He knew something of sorrow, remembered joy, and devoutly hoped – as much as he consciously hoped for anything other than proper allotments of sunshine and rainfall – never again to encounter either of those two old annoyances. Asked, he would have grumbled, “Sono Contento,” if he bothered to respond to such intrusion at all.

Claudio Bianchi is a grumpy old farmer living all by himself half way up a mountain in (where else?) Calabria. All he asks from the world is to be left alone with his goats and stray cats, tending his vegetable garden and writing the occasional verse (for his eyes only). Most of all, Bianchi didn’t ask for any miracle to come into his back garden, yet this is what he comes across one morning.

It was a kind of golden white, though its mane and tail – long and tufted, like a lion’s tail – were slightly darker, as was the horn set high on its silken brow.
As Bianchi stared, it looked up, meeting his eyes with its own, which were dark but not black: more like the darkness of a pine forest in moonlight. It showed no alarm at his presence, not even when he took his first slow step toward it; but when he asked, “What do you want?” – or tried to ask, because the words would not come out of his mouth – the unicorn was gone, as though it had never been there at all.

It’s a mystery all right, why would you chose to write a fantasy story, yet set it in the most hardscrabble and unglamorous place you can think of? What lesson would mr. Beagle want the reader and Claudion Bianchi to learn?

What can you imagine you are doing here, with no princes and dukes to hunt you, no noble ladies to embroider you – no one to do you honor but a tired, tired old farmer with his tired old dog and his cows and cats, and his ’pazzo’ goat? You have no business in poor, tired Calabria, and we both know it.

I’m not going to spoil the story by giving you the answer in my review. Please read the novella – it’s a wonderful piece of art, not a word out of place or extraneous or supplementary. It might convince you, like it did me, that you’re never too old to let a bit of poetry into your prosaic existence. But you need to keep your heart open and be able to recognize the miracle when it comes by your door, or it will disappear in the blink of an eye.

I often wish Peter S Beagle was a more productive writer, putting out thousand of pages a year like some other fantasy authors. But then I come across one of his polished gems of a story and I am content.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
1,985 reviews2,584 followers
February 7, 2017
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2017/02/07/...

With the deft touch of a master storyteller, Peter S. Beagle weaves a strong thread of mythology into this gorgeous and emotional tale about love, sacrifice, and courage. Reading In Calabria is like stepping through a veil and into a dream, crossing into that secret and magical place where everyday life comes face to face with the fantastical. It’s an unforgettable, stunning experience.

In a small village nestled in the peaceful and scenic countryside of Southern Italy, there lives a man named Claudio Bianchi. Becoming increasingly aloof and grumpy in his middle age, he prefers to keep to himself on his farm, tending to his crops and animals while writing poetry in his spare time. His only regular visitor is a postman who comes to his place twice a week to drop off his mail. Life is quiet, routine and uncomplicated, and it’s the way Bianchi likes it. But that all changes in an instant, when our protagonist looks outside one morning and spies an impossible creature gazing back at him from his fields. It is a golden-white unicorn—heavily pregnant too, if Bianchi isn’t mistaken—and for some reason, she has chosen his farm as the place to give birth.

All of a sudden, Bianchi is filled with a new sense of purpose and inspiration. He has promised La Signora, the name he has given the unicorn, that he will keep her and her baby safe. His poetry also come more easily to him now, with her in his life. That peace, however, turns out to be short-lived. Eventually, the rumors start spreading that unicorns have made their home on Bianchi’s land. His farm is sudden swamped by media, trophy hunters, and all manner of nosy busybodies. But worst of all, there are the ‘Ndrangheta, an organized crime group based in Calabria who have come to Bianchi with an offer to buy his farm and the unicorns on it, threatening him with dire consequences if he refuses.

Magical realism fans are going to want to take note for this one. It’s a short and simple tale, but packed with some powerful themes. I’ve always loved stories with unicorns in them, especially those that portray them in meaningful ways, and if anyone can be relied upon to write a book that does just that, it is Peter S. Beagle. The unicorn has long been a symbol of purity and healing, and as we watch Bianchi’s life unfold, it becomes clear that he is in desperate need of some of that magic himself, as much as he may want to deny it. His character is taciturn, a little standoffish, but you can also tell Bianchi is a man who takes pride in his independence and accomplishments. Behind that gruff exterior is a kind heart and plenty of evidence that he cares about the people around him, which is why I found him likable despite his flaws.

There was also a romantic side plot in this that I didn’t see coming, nor did I expect to enjoy it so much. There’s a considerable age difference between the protagonist and his love interest, and while in general May-December relationships can be tricky to pull off, I thought the portrayal of Bianchi and Giovanna’s courtship was sweet, sympathetic, and subtle enough that it doesn’t take too much from the main story. It always warms my heart to read about two very different people coming together, finding an understanding and connection that ultimately leads to something more.

The setting is also something that stands out. This story of course takes place in the eponymous southern Italian region in a bucolic community characterized by hills and farms. The world is presented as this almost surreal mix of the modern and the traditional, showing the juxtaposition between things like smartphones and ski resorts to Bianchi’s low-tech farm and his ancient, barely-running Studebaker. In my opinion, it’s the perfect backdrop for a story like this; if you can suspend reality for a moment and imagine the possibility of unicorns just magically popping up somewhere in the world, I can easily picture it happening in a place like this.

Needless to say, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a short, quick read, but despite its novella-length page count, In Calabria will draw you in and make you feel like a part of its breathtaking world. Highly recommended for readers who love genuine characters, evocative settings, and storytelling with a touch of pure magic.
Profile Image for Barbara K..
362 reviews67 followers
August 9, 2021
After having read a few books in the past month that were each disappointing in some way (the length, the plot, and the writing), I determined that my next read was going to be something that was likely not to suffer those faults. This one didn't.

It was quite short, a novella actually. But packed with lots of good stuff. Fantasy, but set in a very real location that's lovingly rendered: the area of Italy known as Calabria. Claudio Bianchi scratches out a living on a small farm on a mountainside, living with a few pigs and cows, an aged dog, three cats, and a goat named Cherubino.

Into this humble setting wanders a unicorn one day, and Claudio's solitude begins breaking down despite his best efforts to resist. Some connections are good, some are threatening, and all revolve around La Signora, the unicorn.

I really, really enjoyed the contrast between the gritty, unforgiving world of Calabria and the magical quality of La Signora. The earthy sense of place and people is ripe for her to bring out the best in all the local residents - well, nearly all.

I know that Peter Beagle's The Last Unicorn is considered one of the best fantasy novels ever written, and I do have every intention of reading it someday, but at this moment in my life, this was a perfect book.

Five stars. And if I could, a sixth for Bronson Pinchot's narration.

Profile Image for Margaret.
1,103 reviews56 followers
January 16, 2017
Hmm. I'm having a hard time deciding on a rating with this novel (more like a novella in length).

Claudio Bianchi owns a farm in the small Italian village of Calabria. He's grumpy, likes his privacy, and writes poems he shares with no one. In his late forties, his only friend is a young postman who comes a few times a week to deliver the mail. Oh, and his goat. Two things converge to break his comforting privacy: a pregnant unicorn appears on his farm, and the postman's younger sister starts delivering the mail on Friday. Suddenly, his comfortable, isolated existence crumbles. Word spreads of the unicorn on his property, and soon the media begins to hound him, and then a mafia-type group--the 'Ndrangheta--shows up, wanting the farm.

The unicorn scenes are the most powerful of the novel. I love the idea of a unicorn appearing in a contemporary setting, and how the unicorn inspires Bianchi to write even more poetry, the best he's ever written. I wish we could've read a poem or two!

It's Bianchi's romantic relationship with Giovanna, the young postmistress, that gives me pause. I read Summerlong last year, where a similar middle-aged man and a just out of teen years woman form a romantic relationship. I was more receptive to the relationship in Summerlong because the girl ends up being a goddess. But...another book with this relationship dynamic? Um. And Bianchi constantly bemoans how he doesn't deserve such a young girl, how she should leave him, and how it's her that instigates the relationship, not him.

Uh huh. 'Sure.' I hear you.

Okay, so that's weird. The ending also felt...wrong for the novel. It felt like the novel was trying to be longer than it was meant to be, so the 'Ndrangheta were added to create length and a more thrilling plot. But I enjoyed the quiet moments the best, and for me, the main plot was about Bianchi trying to rediscover who he is, and how he can interact with the world and rejoin society. I would've loved to see him publish some of those poems!

For now, my rating is 2.5/5. I'm not sure if I'm going to like this less or more the farther away I am from it.

Thanks to Netgalley and Tachyon Publications for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Kalin.
Author 71 books258 followers
April 16, 2018
In Calabria is a story about redemption through love, and second chances, and, yes, unicorns. But don't go in just for the unicorns.

I think my reading notes will give you an idea why.

~ Before we look at the unicorn proper, let us regard a monster:

The monster crowded gracefully past Bianchi to crane farther under the old tractor’s hood. He brushed the long ash from his cigar tip with a tap of his little finger, and it in turn brushed Bianchi’s hand as it fell into the engine. “Impacciato, goffo!” he berated himself. “My apologies, I am so clumsy. I should not be around machines—things just seem to happen. You know how it is with some people.”
“It is nothing.” Bianchi was consciously taking long, slow breaths as he worked, trying to slow down his racketing pulse.
“On the contrary,” the monster replied. “It is not nothing at all.” He flicked the cigar again, and more ash fell.
Bianchi took a last deep breath and turned to face the monster directly. The monster’s eyes were brown and friendly, with deep space beyond them. Bianchi said, “I will only tell you this once, because you already know what I am going to say. Nothing here is for sale. Not because you are who you are, but because I do not choose to sell my home to anyone, especially a pezzo di merda like you. I like it here.”
“Ah.” The monster seemed to take no offense at all. He nodded again. “Well, if you should ever decide that you like it here a bit less, you might let me know.” And he produced from his vest pocket, tucked neatly behind the Toscanos, an ivory-white card with his name on it in raised letters. “I will not trouble you further. Unless you call the number on that card, you will not be hearing from me again. Buon giorno, Mr. Bianchi.”
A Japanese helicopter was circling overhead as the monster walked away, and he waved to it without turning his head. A jeep with what looked like a harpoon gun mounted on the hood, followed too closely by a television van from a Messina station, started to cut across the monster’s path until the jeep driver—clad in camouflage clothing, like many of the hunters—recognized him and hit the brakes so hard that the jeep went up on its rear wheels, and the van smacked into it, jolting it into a half-spin, and producing a volley of screams, curses, and the distinct sound of buckling metal. The monster walked calmly by.

(But ... pezzo di merda? Really? Why does my old Italian shake its head rustily?

... Okay, obviously my Italian is too rusty. See Frankie's comment below.)

~ Love and sorrow, sorrow and love ....

When he asked hesitantly, “Have you been . . . thinking about this for a long time?” she giggled like a schoolgirl at first; but then she looked down at the table and nodded. He said, “About me?”
“And what is so astonishing about that, Signor Claudio Bianchi? Unicorns come to you all the time—why shouldn’t a woman?” Her eyes were not at all heavy then, but wickedly tender. Bianchi looked away from them.
He said, “I was married once.”
“Yes. Romano has told me. And she left you. So?”
“She was right to leave me. I was not good at being married.”
“Bianchi,” she said. “Claudio. Marriage isn’t like football, like bocce. One isn’t good at it, nobody has a special gift. You stumble along, and if there is enough love—” she smiled at him—“you learn.”
Bianchi got up from the table abruptly enough that Giovanna’s eyes widened. He turned in a circle, like a captive animal—a bear or an elephant—and then he stood leaning with his hands on the back of his chair. “There is no love in me. There is nothing to be learned. She would have stayed if there were, but she knew. I am just telling you now.”
“A unicorn has stayed.”
Bianchi was silent for a moment. “La Signora chose my farm because she felt it would be a safe place to have her baby. Not because of me.”
“You think not?” Giovanna’s expression was a curious mixture of exasperation and affectionate amusement. “You think a unicorn would not know—would not know—who would come out of his house in a storm to help her in her trouble? To perhaps save her child’s life? You think unicorns don’t know such things, Bianchi?”

~ I think I understand why some readers--who are in love with unicorns and magic as much as I am--dislike the second half of this story. Because it goes like this:

Bianchi stayed awake all night, inhaling her closeness, listening to the soft sounds her body made, thinking, can you write a poem about someone’s snores? About trying not to sneeze when her hair tickles my nose? About that one tiny, barely audible fart against my leg? What will I write at my kitchen table, now that she has been there, drinking my wine and eating the dinner I made for her? Late to be discovering all this, Bianchi—all this that children know about these days. Very, very late . . .

So, once you've stopped giggling, wrinkling your nose, shaking your head, whatever--can you ... can you still see the magic here? The unicorns?

Guess I was lucky from the first; already when I met The Last Unicorn, I kept looking for the unicorn--and manticore, and harpy, and Red Bull... okay, maybe not the harpy--inside everyone of us. Already then, I knew "human" means "anything"; a human being can be everything. And more.

So it is not that hard for me to like the second half of this story.

At least so far.

~ Here's the kind of domestic violence I condone:

He completed his evening tasks later than usual, sat in the kitchen for a while with his pipe and the last of the red Ciro, and at last went to bed. Remembering when he was too sleepy to get up again that he had forgotten to call Giovanna. He smiled drowsily, thinking about her . . .
. . . and woke up just as the door crashed in with a splintering squeal of hinges, and he was on the floor, being kicked scientifically and enthusiastically by all the feet in the world. The work was actually being done by only three pairs, but he did not realize this until he had been hauled upright a couple of times, slammed against his bed, and knocked down again, so that the kicking could continue. Somewhere in the process, he struck out in the darkness, felt a nose give, heard a gasping obscenity, and doubled over from a hammer-blow to his stomach. He clung to his assailant with all his strength, clawing for a grip on arms and shoulders he could not see, fearing to go down again. None of them said a word—a message was simply being delivered—and all he could think, as much as he could think, was thank God she isn’t here . . . oh, thank God . . . thank God . . .
. . . and then the motorcycle—Romano, he bought that used muffler from Malatesta—and the beating stopped at the sound . . . and she was there, raging among them through the broken door, swinging a tire iron like a flaming sword and screaming like a maniac. The ’Ndrangheta had no time to prepare for such an attack; in the close quarters the iron got home with every swing, and Giovanna drove them from one wall to the other, round and round, until they blundered outside and fled, lurching and limping, to the car that Bianchi had never heard arrive. She did not pursue, but dropped the tire iron and ran to him, dropping to her knees to catch him as he sagged, cursing steadily and fluently, and crying through it all. In the end, it was Bianchi who had to hold her.

~ Beagle has a rare penchant for evoking the ultimate Other: the otherworldly, the non-human. Although the unicorns here give us only a glimpse--far more fleeting than Sia in The Folk of the Air or Lukassa in The Innkeeper's Song (Lukassa whom I want to both hug and run away from)--it is enough to make me shiver and peer at those three clouds in the sky and wonder: what could have been, what else can we still be?
Profile Image for Tracey.
1,060 reviews238 followers
February 26, 2017
Like most people who are able to read and enjoy fantasy, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Peter S. Beagle. That's not to say I'm a real fan, however; he's a remarkable writer, and uses language like a virtuoso uses a violin, but I've just never warmed to him.

And In Calabria is a perfect example of why. It's a beautiful book. The characters are marvelous. The intrusion of the rare and beautiful into the life of a reclusive and misanthropic man is intense and utterly real.

But, for me, there's some … thing lacking. I have no idea what. Something holds me back, creates a distance. It was gorgeous and I'm glad I read it, and parts of it will stay with me – but, still…

In any case… while neither this nor any of the other Beagles I've read will ever be my very favorite book, it was still a remarkable experience. I saw one review which complained that there was nothing new here, that Beagle has "done" unicorns before, didn't have to do it again – but I think that's … well, insane. It's been a while since I read The Last Unicorn, but I don't think this bears much of a resemblance to that, apart from the obvious: the cataclysmic effect a creature of legend can have on ordinary life. It's not a well, which can be dipped into too often - it's a river, a force of nature, never the same two moments running. Maybe that's why I've never been fonder of Peter Beagle - his extraordinarily comforting last name notwithstanding, his are simply not comfortable books.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,002 followers
May 14, 2017
Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 14th February 2017

In Calabria is a quiet sort of story. It has dramatic moments, certainly, but those weren’t what will stick in my mind in the slightest. What will stick in my mind is Claudio’s quiet care for the unicorn, his moments of inspiration, and his love for Giovanna. He opens up, going from old curmudgeon with a heart of gold to a man who loves, who is brave, who will put himself on the line — and it’s because of the unicorn.

It’s easy to read that as a kind of commentary on the humanising nature of stories. Why do myths like unicorns endure? Because they inspire us, they teach us to open up; from stories we can learn to love.

In Calabria is more like that, a fable or fairy story, though I wouldn’t say it has something as simple as a moral. What’s nice is that, along with the serious moments and the warmth and tenderness, there’s a lot of humour as well. Like Claudio being grateful that Giovanna bought him pyjamas during a critical and dramatic moment…

Originally reviewed for The Bibliophibian.
Profile Image for Olga Godim.
Author 12 books70 followers
June 2, 2017
4.5 stars
Unicorns come to Calabria. Not once upon a time in an imaginary land, but now, in the 21st century, a beautiful unicorn comes to a run-down farm on a hillside in Calabria, South Italy, and settles in. The farm owner, a lonely hopeless man, shuns the technology of his times. He ekes out his meager existence from the land and takes care of his few animals, when he witnesses the miracle of the unicorn. The strange, un-earthy creature gives a new meaning to his life, opens his eyes and his heart, and in return, he is willing to protect it from the unicorn hunters, the insatiable media, and the ruthless Mafiosi.
The story reads like poetry, lyrical and dreamy. It’s not a fast-paced fantasy adventure but a slow-flowing feast of words, and despite my preference for quick action of the usual sword-and-sorcery pageant, I couldn’t stop reading it from start to end. Fortunately for me, it is a short book, 174 pages, but it is one of the best books I’ve read recently. It left me oddly happy. Even though I have never seen a unicorn, I felt as if its magic brushed against my skin too, just as it did for the protagonist of this unusual tale.
Profile Image for kari.
608 reviews
December 31, 2017
The language is exquisite, the exoticization of Calabria isn't. And I'm creeped out by the frequency with which Beagle writes romance between elderly men and very young women.
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,053 reviews349 followers
May 18, 2017
Ahoy there me mateys! I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . .

So did ye know that Peter S. Beagle has written another awesome unicorn tale? Well, now ye do. If ye don't know who Peter S. Beagle is then go and find a copy of the last unicorn and read it immediately; it's one of the best books of all time. Then watch the animated movie for good measure. So when I saw that there was another unicorn tale, I had to read it.

I found this novella to be lovely. While there are unicorns, the story is really about how Claudio Bianchi deals with and is changed by them. Claudio is a cranky middle-aged farmer who lives on a farm in the Calabria region of Italy. He is a bit of a loner that writes poetry. So when he wakes one morning to find a unicorn on his farm in the middle of nowhere, his world is irrevocably changed.

I loved Signore Bianchi. For being salty, he has a good heart. Even his farm animals have great personalities. The ending was a little unusual but the journey of watching Bianchi's relationships with the unicorn and other folk makes it worth the read.

So lastly . . .

Thank you Tachyon Publications!

Check out me other reviews at https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordp...
Profile Image for wishforagiraffe.
201 reviews50 followers
February 16, 2017
A short book, but not exactly a quick read, Beagle's second new book in less than a year has some familiar themes (the transience of immortal beings, their impact on humans, how love shapes people) and a completely new setting. I think that this book NEEDED to be set in Calabria, a remote part of Italy where our main character lives much as his forebears did for generations, and in doing so, the setting absolutely became one of the most important characters in the book.

I was pleased with the story's definite arc, and the prose was excellent, as I would expect from Beagle.

If you want fantasy set in the real world, but prefer mythic fiction rather than urban fantasy, this should be on your must-buy list.

Review copy provided by Net Galley.
Profile Image for Gabriel.
331 reviews15 followers
February 18, 2020
Oh boy. Rarely do I round a 1.5 up to a 2, but this is an odd case. Not a surprising one, since I've read a couple of Beagle's hard misses by now, but this is a pretty bad one on several fronts.

Peter Beagle is an unusual writer in terms of unevenness--the things he does well are usually pretty unique and wonderful, and the things he sucks at (I should say, doesn't put real effort into or doesn't take seriously; I don't think he at his age and length of career ever lacked the ability) are unreadable and charmless. His good stuff, like The Last Unicorn (and "Two Hearts" which is connected to it) is most of the former, only a shade of the latter. And the rest has been kind of mixed.

What's good about this one--the atmosphere, a lot of the emotional and character notes, the stuff about ordinary people encountering the divine (still done better with Molly Grue I thought, to be honest, but not bad here) and the place that holds emotionally; the rendering of someone living a private life that they don't desire to make public. The overall concept, as it would've looked in outline form at least, of the love story as parallel to the whole unicorn's situation with baby and mate.

What's bad--this is the worst rendering of Italy I've ever seen, I didn't know it was possible for an American writer to write a European country the way that a racist American writer circa 1960 would write Japan, but... this may actually be worse than that. I think my favorite parts there are when unnecessary words get dropped in in Italian, but they're just literal translations of English words--like words for "midday" or "bicycle" rather than like, anything remotely Italian-specific--and the parts where the Italian main character doesn't take the 'Ndrangheta seriously and then Italians take the time to exposit to each other what the 'Ndrangheta is. Incorrectly. But also the folksy dumb "isolated from the world totally" conception of present-day Calabria. At the same time they talk about catering to tourists! Dude, come on.

Also, Beagle's gender stuff is predictably shit. I'm not ragging on the concept of May-December romance here, but Giovanna was obviously a tacked-on flimsy woman as symbol next to the weird eroticized unicorn concept, and something close to an oldschool manic pixie dream girl here to improve the life of a depressed man. The Last Unicorn kind of lucks into being accidentally not as shit on the gender front, especially if you don't know more about the way Beagle writes women 100% of the time--in that way I kind of hope most people stop there--but as a whole it is obvious that he has the most basic and sleazy version of woman-object man-subject mentality in his writing that John Berger might be talking about. Anyone too besotted about the value of these feminine goddess muses needs to check out Men Act, Women Are as a wake-up call. But I am pretty sure Peter Beagle never will.

Anyway, he continues to be the fantasy writer whose talent most greatly diverges from what he actually decides to write about. Sorry, dude, you brought it on yourself.
255 reviews10 followers
September 7, 2020
I've had this on my phone for months and months. I don't read much on my phone at the best of times, and when I rarely leave the house, it gets worse. But I had some time outside of a coffee shop, and had forgotten to bring my current book, so I finally got to finish this one.

It's an absolutely delightful story of a crusty old Italian farmer, a loner who is entirely happy with his animals -- and what happens to his life when a unicorn chooses his farm for her own complex and cataclysmic purposes. In the course of the story, Claudio Bianchi falls into his more-than-five-minutes of fame, is astonished by unexpected love, is stalked and harassed by people who believe you can own unicorns, and eventually is swept up into the ineffable magic of his extraordinary one-horned guest and her family.

I have loved Peter Beagle's work for many decades, and it was a treat to be welcomed back into his capable hands for this love story.
Profile Image for Melanti.
1,256 reviews116 followers
December 31, 2016
This is really more like 3.5 but I'm rounding up since I like Beagle's work in general.

This isn't quite as polished and cohesive a work as his Summerlong, which I read earlier this year.

Most of it works together very well - it's a simple, quiet tale about a cranky, reclusive man who has to adjust to a lot of extra social interaction after a unicorn takes up residence on his remote farm.

But... this quiet tale is somewhat marred by some suspenseful action towards the end of the book. Those frenetic pages just didn't mesh well with the tone of the rest of the book, IMO.

Though it did go back to the quiet mood and the last couple of pages did leave me with a smile on my face.

Thank you to Netgalley and Tachyon Publications for the ARC.
Profile Image for Tonia.
91 reviews
May 28, 2017
You know a dude wrote the book when the woman 23 years younger than the man initiates a sexual relationship. Other than that, I enjoyed the book. Good beach read.
Profile Image for Maggie Gordon.
1,896 reviews130 followers
December 24, 2016
Oh Peter S Beagle... once again you have written a story that normally I would have no interest in and managed to make me love it.

In Calabria is about unicorns, so fans of The Last Unicorn will probably jump on it. However, I should warn readers that the two books are quite different. The Last Unicorn is a more traditional fantasy, and In Calabria is a magic realism story where unicorns most certainly exist, but the world is ours with little bit of magic. That being said, it's still an excellent book and very representative of Beagle's more contemporary writing.

The story starts on a farm in Calabria, Italy. Our protagonist is Claudio Bianchi, a 47 year old farmer. His life is stable and ordinary until one day a unicorn takes up residence on his land so that she can give birth. Her existence is a secret that Claudio protects carefully, but it's hard to keep such things hidden forever, and Claudio's farm begins to draw a lot of attention. Some of the people who start snooping around for the unicorn are not the nicest of persons, and Claudio finds that he and his loved ones are in a lot of danger over his desire to protect the unicorns...

So, as said, the plot is a lot less fantastical than Beagle's most famous work, but if you enjoyed Summerlong (which is excellent!), than In Calabria will be a fun read as well. It's a slow novel, as most of Beagle's are, but he delivers quite a lot of suspense at the end. The final scenes with the unicorns deliver a nice dose of magic to the quiet tale, and the writing is wonderful. The story is short (novella length), but it fits the form excellently.

There is one aspect of the book that I think deserves some conversation. Giovanna is in her early 20s, so her relationship with Claudio features a rather significant age gap. This type of May-December match-up has appeared a couple times in Beagle's work and... it's a trope that can easily be gross. In Calabria, however, manages to avoid being icky. At no point is Claudio portrayed as anything other than himself, a stocky, old farmer with a poetry hobby and a lot of flaws. He's not romanticized, and Giovanna is never portrayed as a prize that he's won. She's the instigator of the relationship, and there's no weird power dynamic between the two. I would be happy to see this particular trope not appear in future writings, but I wasn't overly bothered by its presence here.

Thanks to NetGalley and Tachyon Books for the ARC for review purposes!
Profile Image for Sarah.
832 reviews232 followers
July 26, 2017
As a new unicorn story by the acclaimed Peter S. Beagle, I had high expectations for In Calabria. Unfortunately, this novella didn’t do much for me.

For many years, Claudio Bianchi has lived alone on his farm in Southern Italy, writing poetry and tending to his three cows and other animals. Then one morning, he discovers a unicorn has arrived at his farm. The arrival of the unicorn will change Claudio’s life forever.

The focus of In Calabria is Claudio Bianchi. He’s cut himself off from other people and been living in isolation. But when the unicorn chooses him and his farm it makes him reconnect with others and reevaluate his own worthiness. More than anything else, the unicorn functions as a catalyst for Claudio’s personal growth.

After Claudio and the unicorn, the most prominent character is Giovanna, the younger sister of Claudio’s friend the postman. Giovanna did not impress me. She felt like the typical one dimensional sexy love interest who has an inexplicable interest in the much older male protagonist. I also found it annoying how frequently the narrative mentioned that her eyes were green. I get it, she has striking green eyes! Move on!

In Calabria is fairly short – under two hundred pages – but it took me a while to read. I kept putting it down and having to come back to it. I just feel so apathetic about it. The writing is lovely (this is Peter S. Beagle after all), but there’s not much more I can say about In Calabria. It is possible people of a more literary bent might enjoy this one more than me, but I won’t be recommending it in the future.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page.

I received a copy of In Calabria from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jeremy.
81 reviews
April 20, 2021
Great things come in small packages! Don't go in expecting straight fantasy, even vaguely in the realm of the author's classic 'The Last Unicorn.' Here is something quite different. This subtle and lyrical short novel is so many things: magical and ordinary, simple and profound, rough and loving, mysterious and frank. Mr. Beagle lays down such bare emotion that you cannot help but savor his story, characters, and writing. I'd especially recommend for readers who have experienced some of life's harsher lessons or those who posses a wise old soul. You will understand why.
Profile Image for Hot Mess Sommelière ~ Caro.
1,043 reviews94 followers
February 4, 2022
I did not enjoy this novella, despite the fact that the prose that described the landscape, the unicorn, shone in parts.

The problem was the very obvious self-insertion of the author and his opinions.

- Bianchi, the protagonist: a gentle, grumpy Calabrese living a lonely existence on his farm at the ancient age of ... 47. Obviously when you're that old and your wife left you, there is no hope for you anymore. Bianchi reads like a 98 year old man, and he also reads a lot like a self-insert, wish-fulfilling character. More about that later.

- Giovanna. The good, young, beautiful, love interest, who is half Bianchi's age. One day, out of the blue, after the unicorns appear at Bianchi's farm, Giovanna shows up. She is the spunky, young (did I mention young?) Manic Pixie Dream Girl to Bianchi's loneliness. Her personality is reduced to two factors: her naive joy, and her youthful energy. Both are linked: Bianchi calls her girl, tells her he is too old, tells her she can't drive a motorcycle, tells her to stay away from him, comforts her when she messes up and tells her brother evefything about the unicorns. Now, Beagle might have fooled other readers, but not me. Giovanna is written the way a 10-year old girl could have been written, and THEN (and only then) Bianchi's constant coaching, proprietory speech and otherwise condescends to her. Giovanna is also betrayed by Beagle's narration, when she cheerfully circumvents her brother's monitoring (she's 23!!) and drives to see Bianchi for a booty call. 30 year old men who live at home monitoring their adult sisters is normal - he's just looking out for her! He's a NICE GUY. Narratives like these that hold no criticism just put the impression on readers that every woman would do well with a protector by her side. A good man who looks out for her and makes the decision. You know, like it's the law in Saudi Arabia.

- The fraudulent Seer/Medium/Tarot Card Reader. Madame I-forgot-her-name is the local freakshow of the tiny calabrese village. Alwaxs wearing an exotic turban and exquisite jewels no matter the time of day, she wishes to impress and bedazzle the willing listener by letting them see what they want to see and telling them pre-made fortunes. Like the evil hag, Mommy Fortuna, who entrapped the unicorn in The Last Unicorn. I digress. Madame Fraud lists a million complaints and ailments that Bianchi could ppssibly be suffering from, but since she's a fraud, she doesn't come close to the truth no matter how hard she tries. Also, since she's a fraud, she uses none of her tools: neither her crystal ball nor her tarot cards or, apparently, her very own healing creams for ailing cow nipples. After all, what do you need cards for when all you do is listen to local rumors and try to sell your crappy stuff to dumb villagers? Yeah. Now, obviously I'm biased because I read Tarot cards. On the other hand, all the other readers I know don't wear a turban and sell cow nipple cream either, so ... maybe not all of them are racist freaks who want to steal people's hard earned cash? Madame Fraud is unfortunately the only other female character (not counting the unicorn), which makes her the natural counterpart to wonderful, lilywhite Giovanna. Did I mentiom that the local cutthroat reseller, who defrauds the villagers of their hard-earned cash by underpaying them is awarded the benefit of doubt, because he actually warns Bianchi of the organized crime bosses tracking him (despite being mortally afraid of them). Another man redeemed! I hope all the men have a good sister like Giovanna they can take care of.

- La Signora Unicorn. She has the most depth out of all the female characters (naturally, since Beagle has phenomenal descriptive powers when he doesn't use them to mock and belittle his female characters). Unforgunately she turns out to have a male counterpart who is the polar opposite of her (that is, fiery, aggressive, vital, always moving, male, etc) which was superfluous, since La Signora could have easily stood alone on Bianchi's farm without help&guidance. When her man showed up, La Signora became less, which is what happens to women when you diminish them.

I could say a lot more about In Calabria. Instead I will talk about how I revisited The Last Gondoliers, another Beagle novella, last year. That novella was a fluent, dreamlike narration set in Venice. Like Calabria, the Venice setting was alive, wonderfully three dimensional and rich. All of Beagle's efforts of crafting went into shaping the Venice men he wrote about. And there were many. Opera singers who got outsung by a mere gondoliere. A gondola teacher with a nasty streak. Friends at school. Honestly if everything had just gone on that way, I would have once again given that novella the 5 stars I gave it upon first reading it a decade ago. But unfortunately Beagle introduced a female love interest. A pretty girl. Beautiful. With eyes and hair and legs and potentially, boobs. She did not speak. She had no personality. She got no description that was not physical. Because when you are a love interest, you are just a walking, admirable vagina.

I'm tired of this shit.
Profile Image for Rosava Doshchyk.
254 reviews53 followers
January 24, 2023
"Одного разу в Калабрії" — дуже симпатична повість з єдинорогами. Щось ближче до магічного реалізму, ніж до класичного фентезі, але дуже затишна і сповнена людяності.
Profile Image for Newly Wardell.
455 reviews
January 6, 2020
Different story about unicorns. Curmudgeon farmer life is changed when a unicorn builds a nest on his property. Not bad
Profile Image for Ellinor.
483 reviews242 followers
February 18, 2020
Claudio Bianchi lebt zurückgezogen auf seinem Hof in Kalabrien. Eines Tages taucht dort ein Einhorn auf, dass eindeutig trächtig ist. Bianchi erzählt niemandem davon, Giovanna, die Briefträgerin findet es jedoch durch Zufall heraus. Sie wird schließlich seine Geliebte, obwohl die beiden mehr als zwanzig Jahre Altersunterschied trennen. Das Einhorn bekommt sein Junges und die beiden leben auf Bianchis Hof. Doch die Ruhe ist bald vorbei, denn die Presse und auch die Ndrangheta bekommen Wind davon...
Ich mochte Claudio und Giovanna, fand aber die Kombination aus Einhorn und Mafia etwas weit hergeholt. Außerdem war mir nicht ganz klar, welchen Sinn das Auftauchen des Einhorns, der Signora, wie Bianchi sie nennt, haben sollte. Mir hätte die Geschichte ohne Einhorn vermutlich besser gefallen.
Profile Image for Jakub.
663 reviews64 followers
September 27, 2022
Short but enchanting story. There was something about this simple story about an acerbic farmer that gripped my heart. A curious mix of realistic fantasy, well written characters and emotions makes this book special.
Profile Image for OpenBookSociety.com .
3,806 reviews116 followers
March 3, 2017

In Calabria
By Peter S. Beagle
ISBN: 9781616962487
Author Website: http://www.peterbeagle.com/
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Caro


From the acclaimed author of The Last Unicorn comes a new, exquisitely-told unicorn fable for the modern age.

Claudio Bianchi has lived alone for many years on a hillside in Southern Italy’s scenic Calabria. Set in his ways and suspicious of outsiders, Claudio has always resisted change, preferring farming and writing poetry. But one chilly morning, as though from a dream, an impossible visitor appears at the farm. When Claudio comes to her aid, an act of kindness throws his world into chaos. Suddenly he must stave off inquisitive onlookers, invasive media, and even more sinister influences.

Lyrical, gripping, and wise, In Calabria confirms Peter S. Beagle’s continuing legacy as one of fantasy’s most legendary authors. (Goodreads)


I was really surprised with In Calabria because I didn’t expect it to like it as much as I liked The Last Unicorn. The Last Unicorn is one of my favorite childhood books as well as the animated movie, no one else makes unicorns look so elegant, pure, and beautiful than author Peter S. Beagle, and in this new story he reminds fans what a great job he can do when it comes writing about them.

In Calabria is a fast, yet calm paced story to follow. At the start of the book the reader is introduced to Claudio Bianchi, his farm, and the few people that venture up the hill to visit him once in awhile. His only friends are his farm animals and dog. He spends all his time with them and even has funny conversations with the goats and cows. The only human interaction is the postman who is always trying to make Claudio read him his poems.

One day a unicorn appears on his property, a creature so beautiful that Claudio never dreamed of seeing in his life. Eventually, Claudio befriends the La Signora, as he has come to call the unicorn, and his everyday life begins to change. As Claudio helps La Signora, she helps him in return.

There’s several details I liked about the story, such as Claudio’s poems, his conversations with the animals and the postman’s sister, the description of the unicorns and each of their scenes. Claudio lived alone for so long that when the unicorn appears he is reminded that there is more to the world than just the farm.

“If a poem did not tell you immediately what it was about, then, to Claudio Bianchi, it needed more help than a label was likely to provide.”

I recommend In Calabria to those fans of The Last Unicorn and fantasy classics; no action scenes, just pure fantasy.

*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*

Profile Image for Metaphorosis.
691 reviews53 followers
February 9, 2017
3.5 stars - Metaphorosis Reviews

Claudio Bianchi is a grumpy, lonely farmer and poet, whose only visitor is Romano Muscari, the mailman. Until suddenly a unicorn turns up on the farm, involving Bianchi, Muscari, and Muscari's gentle sister in situations they'd never imagined.

Peter S. Beagle seems to have a thing for unicorns. There's his most famous book, The Last Unicorn, and a handful of others. Now, In Calabria brings the unicorns back again.

There's nothing really new here; we've seen this same kind of story many times before. Beagle does a nice job with it - it's all well written, the characters work, and there's just the right balance of disbelief and acceptance. It's a slight book, at just over 100 pages, but that works in its favor; the main weakness of the book is that it's predictable. There's no surprise in how it works out, and that's clear right from the early chapters. The short length works well for it on this front.

If you're a Beagle fan, and can't get enough of his unicorns, by all means, pick this up. It's a pleasant, unsurprising tale, well-told. But if you're fairly well read, and not convinced just by Beagle's name, this is more light pastime than revelation.

Received free copy of book in exchange for honest review.
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