New Release Review: Summerlong

Peter S. Beagle, Summerlong (2016)

summerlongThe Puget Sound setting and mythological overtones of Peter S. Beagle’s new novel, Summerlong, made it sound irresistible to me — and it turned out to be a lovely end-of-summer read. A long-term unmarried couple, one living in Seattle and the other across the water on Gardner Island, find their lives transformed in unexpected  ways when they meet an enchanting but mysterious young waitress. Where does she come from, and what is she fleeing? Why does she have such a magical effect on everyone around her? As her secrets are slowly revealed, we find that nothing can ever be quite the same again.

I really appreciated how Beagle treated the theme of mature love and relationships, a subject not often approached in fantasy fiction these days. He’s brave enough to acknowledge that some hurts cannot easily be healed, that endings in life are often not as tidy as turning the last page of a book. I liked seeing the characters constantly evolve, as old routines die away and new capacities come to light — being retirement age doesn’t mean losing one’s capacity to learn and grow, after all.

I did find that I enjoyed the build-up of the story, characters, and the setting — which is very vividly and accurately evoked — more than the denouement. To me the mythological aspects were more effective when hinted at than when overtly referenced. Still, the world and people of Summerlong will linger in my memory for more than a season, leaving traces of beauty, wisdom, and heartache behind.


16 thoughts on “New Release Review: Summerlong

    1. I haven’t read everything by him…as well as The Last Unicorn (which I also should reread), I think only A Fine and Private Place and The Folk of the Air. I’d say, just follow your nose to whatever attracts you at the moment – you can’t go far wrong!


  1. “To me the mythological aspects [are] more effective when hinted at than when overtly referenced.” I entirely agree, Lory, mythology works best as a general, almost amorphous background to a narrative, otherwise it risks appearing as a bare skeleton on which the flesh hangs loosely like clothing on a clothes horse. (Sorry about the mixed metaphor!) Such matters are effective when allusive rather than tipping towards allegory.


    1. It’s hard to write about the divine without bringing it down to an earthly level — I find that in some places here Beagle succeeds brilliantly but in other places he falls flat. Still, it was a noble attempt.


  2. How did you feel about the, ummmmmm, I want to say this without being spoilery, the eventual romantic entanglement? Someone else reviewed this book (and of course I’m blanking on who it was) felt disappointed about that element of the book and wished Peter Beagle had gone in a different, less predictable direction.


  3. I think I’m more prepared to read this one now that I finally read A Fine and Private Place a few weeks ago. It was only my second Beagle but obviously much different from The Last Unicorn. I think I’m going to love the Puget Sound setting!


        1. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest looks kind of interesting. Otherwise, I am not finding much of note. Funny — I would have thought there would be more.


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