Commentary

Charles de Lint’s The Little Country: An Appreciation

She knew this music–knew it down to the very core of her being–but she had never heard it before. Unfamiliar, it had still always been there inside her, waiting to be woken. It grew from the core of mystery that gives a secret its special delight, religion its awe. It demanded to be accepted by simple faith, not dissected or questioned, and at the same time, it begged to be doubted and probed. — small pipes player Janey Little in The Little Country

I’ve been working on a review of a Peter S. Beagle collection but that’s not what I’m here this morning post-breakfast (just tea and toast with apple jam as I over indulged last night sampling Spring ales) as I set that aside while waiting for Peter to answer a question about his collection. Instead I want to discuss a lovely early novel by Charles de Lint called The Little Country. Now go read our review while I get another cup of Lapsang Souchong tea with a splash of cream…

The key to this novel is, as you read just now, summed up by the reviewer: ‘All of this music serves as a complex yet clear harmony for a fast-moving, exciting story. The story rollicks back and forth between two separate plot lines that interweave in a tight polyphony before resolving into one joined, deeply satisfying “Coda.” Devoted de Lint fans and first-time readers alike will find The Little Country a resoundingly good read.’

Unlike much of his later fiction that centres on the city of Newford, this novel requires no knowledge of anything else he was written. (Go thisaway for our edition on him.) It’s a brilliant read as it has interesting characters such as Janey Little, lots of references to good music and musicians, and an obvious love by de Lint of Cornish folklore.

(Paul Brandon, noted Australian author of one of my favourite novels, Swim the Moon, Celtic musician, and friend of de Lint, notes that Janey Little is based on Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell!)

It is a very popular novel that even had a Celtic group, The Tinker’s Own, record a tune de Lint wrote for the novel, which remains one of his best liked novels, along with Moonheart, twenty years after it was first published.

If you haven’t read it yet, you’re in for a very special treat when you do. Once you read it, you’ll want to read again as it deserves multiple readings with pen and paper in hand to follow-up on the previously noted references that de Lint makes in it to music, folklore, and so forth. It is in print in trade paper but the hardcover editions are easy to find online and are quite affordable.

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