I found Summerlong on NetGalley and requested it because I’d never read any Peter S. Beagle books. I know a lot of people are fans of The Last Unicorn, so I thought I’d give him a try.
Puget Sound is in the midst of an unpleasant winter when the arrival of a mysterious woman changes everything. Lioness arrives on Gardner Island and even the weather takes notice. The temperature rises, flowers bloom, and those who live nearby are inexplicably drawn to the young woman.
Two long-time lovers, an academic named Abe and a flight attendant named Joanna, take in Lioness. But her presence has a curious effect on them; the are fascinated and find themselves acknowledging and exploring their deepest desires. But even as they seem to thrive, they also find themselves viewing their relationships in new ways. And Lioness has a secret…
Let’s get into it…
Though it revolves around the intriguing Lioness Lazos, whose arrival in Puget Sound brings beautiful weather and captivates the inhabitants, at its heart Summerlong is about the formation and dissolution of relationships. The main characters Abe and Joanna have a comfortable relationship, one that seems almost enviable at times, but Lioness’ presence changes them. The characters acknowledge parts of themselves that have been dormant, and they grow as a result. However, they don’t necessarily grow together. This exploration of personal desire is fascinating, though somewhat melancholy.
Abe and Joanna are well written characters with flaws that make them both intriguing and realistic. While some of their choices are disagreeable, it is difficult not to sympathize with them or at least acknowledge their reasoning. Lily, Joanna’s daughter, acts as an important counter to the middle-aged characters. While Abe and Joanna seems somewhat resigned – if not entirely happy – with their lives at the beginning of the novel, Lily is more volatile and searches more openly for meaning in life.
Beagle expertly interweaves the introspective tales if Abe and Joanna with a well-known story from Greek mythology. This adds depth to the plot and strengthens the magical bonds that tie the novel together. The particular myth is fairly obvious if you’re is familiar with Greek mythology, but confirming Lioness’ identity is still entertaining.
Final verdict: Altogether, Summerlong is a beautifully written novel. It has an intriguing tone that keeps you reading and its characters and the relationships they share stay with you.
Thanks to NetGalley and Tachyon Publications for providing me with a copy of this lovely novel.