The Cambridge Geek

In Calabria - Peter S. Beagle

I am a manly man. I smoke strong liquor, take cigarettes and drink heavy drugs.

This story is about a unicorn.

And I love it.

Claudio Bianchi lives alone, divorced and vaguely bitter, on his little farm in Southern Italy, content to stay away from people and pen brief poems that no one will ever read. Until one day a unicorn drops by and decides to stay.

This started slowly, and the first two fifths almost turned me off it but since I'm now stuck reading all of these novellas, I persisted. And I'm very glad I did.

The unicorn comes with both ups and downs. It's influence causes Bianchi to begin a quiet romance with Giovanna, a younger woman of the village, while causing him to have to fight off unicorn hunters, both journalistic and criminal. The last three fifths of the novella absolutely rattle through, throwing danger and derring-do all over the place.

The farm is given a vital life through Beagle's writing, filled as it is with creatures large and small, each of which has its own place. None more so than poor Third Cat, never properly named.

The unicorn is meant to be glorious and important, but it's mostly a plot device, to set up Bianchi and his transformation. That's not a failing, as it's his story, not the unicorn's.

He's a generally wonderful character. A little too fond of belittling himself in occasional moments, but on the whole someone I was delighted to spend the length of a novella with.

Score 4

Tagged: Book Magical Realism Personal development Novella Print