Friday, 24 April 2015

The Last Unicorn (1968) by Peter S. Beagle

Beagle, born 1939, was only in his late twenties when he wrote this, his first published novel. He’s made a living from writing since, but this remains his best-loved book. It’s a fantasy novel, but it’s short, the plot is simple, there’s a small cast of characters and it’s very well written. So in no sense your typical fantasy! It’s been sitting on my shelves (alphabetical order, so right up in the top left-hand corner, just in front of the dusty old John Buchan’s) for thirty years and I pulled it down at random. The best word I can use is gorgeous. The language is rich and ripe and relished. Every paragraph was composed for the joy of language rather than to advance the plot. He has a particular gift for simile – every one chosen with care, every one adding to the image he is constructing. The book is not flawless – there is a lengthy section where Beagle is having such fun with minor characters that he forgets about the unicorn, and you miss her. But for the most part it’s a joy and the ending is entirely satisfying.

Peter S Beagle, The last Unicorn, 1968. Short, simple, well-written – entirely gorgeous. The language is rich and ripe and relished and the ending is entirely satisfying.

Review by Mark Steinhardt

No comments:

Post a Comment