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Claudio Bianchi lives alone on his farm in Southern Italy, a self-professed grump who just wants to enjoy his little bit of land, his animals, and write his poems when the mood strikes him. But an unexpected and impossible visitor changes everything.
For how can a person stay determinedly grumpy and insular when faced with the grace of a unicorn?
Bianchi’s world becomes much larger than he had ever intended or wanted with the addition of a unicorn, and he faces the reality that this is a secret that is going to resist being kept.
In Calabria is a gorgeous story shaped with elegant prose and stunning imagery. In Bianchi we have a very human protagonist who shifts and changes bit by bit as the story progresses. Once could say all the changes are a result of contact with the unicorn. It is this reader’s opinion that the unicorn might be the catalyst, but Bianchi grows through his own volition. Its an ancient story, humans changing after meeting a unicorn. Beagle has provided a modern incarnation of the tale, and it is a much needed bit of beauty and quiet joy.
It is a unicorn story. It is a coming of age story. It is a story of forgiveness and a story of love. In Calabria will speak to each and every reader that ventures through its pages.
They are the people you pass on the street, sit next to on the bus. They are the heroes of personal triumphs, victims of personal tragedy. This is a book of little things- small casts, snippets of lives- but the way Carroll writes them makes them so very grand. The fantastic is woven so adeptly into the mundane that you don’t even know it is there until you meet the Minotaur at the center of the Labyrinth, shatter a luck curse, hatch a fairy egg, or deal with the Devil at midnight.
It is that atmosphere that drew me in and kept me reading. Carroll’s deft hand at lending magical and frightening things a rather nonchalant air makes each story stand out from regular literary fantasy fare. Stories range from heart warming to horrifying, but whatever atmosphere Carroll is weaving, his adept web of words caught my attention and held me until the end.
There were a few stories that particularly got me as I was reading, either causing a rash of goose flesh to march up and down my arms or prompting me to seek out my cat for some impromptu (and probably unwelcome on the feline end of things) cuddling.
‘Breaking the Silence’ is about a close coterie of school boys who owe their successes in life to the bully they only half remember and an incident in a dusty attic of the school house. It is an absolutely, believably, horrifying piece. ‘The Woman Who Hatched A Fairy’s Egg’ may be my favorite in the collection. It is a story about self and belonging and confidence and love. And an egg found on the front step is the catalyst for it all. Simply a beautiful story. I am genuinely just very fond of ‘Mr. Singh Confronts the Minotaur’. It was well- written, fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Shady deals with the Devil are a staple of myth/folklore-based writing, and it was wonderful to see it represented in Carroll’s collection in ‘Seven For the Devil’. As usual, the deal does not go as planned for the mortals in the mix, and the protagonist scrambles to set things right. What set this story apart from others with the same theme is the protagonist- a genuinely likable person who makes human decisions- and the friend he continues to seek out, who happens to be a rocker-turned-preacher.
Grab a copy. Curl up somewhere comfortable. Enjoy your trip through familiar places turned strange in wonderful ways.