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22 June 2014

Published 1999, paperback. Firebird books.

The truth is, and some readers will think it heresy, I never much liked Peter Beagle’s writing until I ran across this book. Jennifer Gluckstein moves with her mother to a 300-year-old farm in Dorset, England, to live with her new stepfather and stepbrothers, Julian and Tony. Jenny discovers Tamsin Willoughby, the ghost of the original farm’s owner’s daughter. Jenny befriends Tamsin and is drawn into reliving the tragedy of Tamsin’s peripheral involvement in the Monmouth Rebellion and through Tamsin finds herself confronting The Billy Blind, a pooka, the Wild Hunt, and the ghost of the notorious Judge Jeffries.
I found it a story that is engrossing on a number of levels and very re-readable. Since 1999 I’ve gone back and read it three times since the original reading and found it excellent each time. One of the fascinating things to me has been how very well the author, an elderly male, managed to transpose himself into the skin of a thirteen-year-old girl. I loved Jenny’s relationship with her cat as well. This is a terrific book and I recommend it strongly as a gift to any teenage girls in the family in particular, and to fantasy-lovers in general. It left me too feeling wistful that I am unlikely to ever visit Dorset.

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