In Short: A fantasy rooted in folk and fairy tales. Janey Little, a Cornish folk musician, finds an unknown manuscript by a famous fantasy author. She starts reading it, and so doing sets in motion an uncanny chain of events that puts herself and everyone she loves in danger.
In Full: The Little Country is my third book by Charles de Lint. Although its not my favourite (that still has to be Moonheart) I thoroughly enjoyed it. I found themes of redemption and forgiveness, about the core of innocent hurt in the heart of even the most evil person.
I liked the way in which the two stories – the Janey Little narrative, and the story in the book she discovers, alternates and interweave. I am usually irritated by “book within a book” stories. I don’t enjoy being pulled out from one narrative and plunged into another. But this book is an exception: it is not so much a book within a book, as two books sharing the same cover. By the end, I found myself forgetting at times which narrative was the “real” one and which the book.
As in the other de Lint books, the words “music” and “magic” are interchangeable. In this story, music – and folk music in particular – is a link to our deep past, a half remembered awareness of loss, and a bridge to a different world.
I enjoyed the references to familiar folk tunes. At one of the climactic moments of the plot, there is a moment of magic and joy that plays itself out to the tune of Mrs McCleod’s Reel – which is the tune my husband played on his violin as I came walking down the aisle on our wedding day. 🙂
Notrhumbrian Pipes, as played by Janey, from liestman.com
Janey Little and her friends are all interesting characters. Janey in particular is a convincing heroine; flawed, and not always likeable. She has a short temper and inclination to be rather self centred, but combined with an essentially loving nature she came across as a real, believable woman.
There were some weaknesses in this book. At times I felt the author’s voice a little too intrusive. For example – there is a moment when a unpleasant character starts to question herself and experiences unfamiliar mental anguish. Instead of just letting us observe her change of heart, the authors voice interjects to point out that “it was compassion”.
I also had that uncomfortable sensation that a conversation was only taking place because the author needed to explain something.
But even so, there was so much here to entertain and fascinate. There is a underlying sense of the search for meaning. But while there are no easy answers, the lasting message remains, in the words of one of the characters:
“The magics of this world are far simpler than we make them out to be”
**The Little Country is featured on Coral Press’s “Top 40 Musical Novels – have a look at the entire list here:
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