Title: In Calabria
Author: Peter S. Beagle
Primary Format: eBook, courtesy of NetGalley and Edelweiss and Tachyon Publications
Start Date: March 29, 2017
End Date: March 30, 2017
Rating: 3.5 to 4 stars
Do you know, do you ever consider, how beautiful and impossible you have made my life? Do you care?
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It was short (a mere 176 pages), but it packed a punch.
As the title might suggest, In Calabria – by Peter S. Beagle, the author of The Last Unicorn – takes place in Calabria, a small town in southern Italy. Claudio Bianchi lives alone, isolated on a farm once belonging to his uncle, staunchly determined to remain in the 19th century: all he counts among his technological possessions are a telephone and a small TV that sometimes gets news channels.
Life in quiet isolation suits Bianchi just fine…until one day he spots a pregnant golden-white unicorn on his farm, starting a series of events that will forever change Bianchi’s life.
This book, in my opinion, can be filed neatly with other such books as A Man Called Ove in a curmudgeonly-old-men category. Both told the story of grumpy old men living alone, but who also go through some transformative process by a person (or in this case, by a unicorn) that invades their lives; in the end, they are still curmudgeonly, but realize there is something to live for. While I don’t think it’s fair to directly compare the two, I think they each essentially tell the same story.
I really enjoyed Beagle’s descriptions of the unicorn. I thought they were beautiful.
La Signora surged under him as he straddled her: not as a single creature, not even as a unicorn, but as something that did not know him, a white vastness that wished him neither evil nor any recognizable good, but only its own immortal freedom and power.
I also enjoyed the fact that, while a seemingly simple story on the surface, there were deep undertones relaying messages of love, loss, and loneliness. The unicorn herself, who Bianchi dubbed “La Signora” out of respect, was herself a metaphor for what Bianchi himself had lost. It was never overly poignant or profound in the way that A Man Called Ove was, but it was deep and meaningful in a more subtle way.
Overall, I did enjoy this book – a lot more than I expected I would. I never read any of Beagle’s other works, though Summerlong has been on my TBR list for a while now.
I’d rate this book a solid 3.5 stars (rounded up to 4 stars).
Thank you to both NetGalley and Edelweiss as well as Tachyon Publications for a free advanced copy of this e-galley in exchange for an honest review!