THE LITTLE COUNTRY
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
There is magic in books, a fact acknowledged by Charles de Lint in his novel The Little Country. This book is about Janey Little, a folksinger who is visiting her grandfather in the artist colony village of Mousehole (pronounced Mouzel), just to the west of Penzance in Cornwall. While there, she finds a manuscript for the book The Little Country, written by Billy Dunthorn. Janey's stay in Mousehole begins to mirror Dunthorn's tale of Jodi.
Neither de Lint's book or Dunthorn's book are bright and airy. Both are filled with an heavy sense of atmosphere and the danger which may lurk within the shadows. The only time de Lint manages to lose his way is once the fairy folk begin to appear in Mousehole and events become otherworldly. De Lint's powers of description at this point in his career don't always seem to be adequate to describe the vision he has in mind. This shortcoming, however, only appears for a brief section of the novel.
De Lint does a marvelous job capturing the spirit of Mousehole as well as the eerieness of the surrounding Cornish landscape. This is the type of country which provided the ideas for the fairies which frequent de Lint's Newford tales. However much he is able to integrate them into his semi-Canadian, semi-American city, this is where they rightfully belong.
Another strength of the novel comes from the fact that both Janey and de Lint are musicians. This allows de Lint to give a fantastic portrayal of the concerns a musician has regarding their craft, both emotionally and technically. In making Janey a musician, de Lint seems to put more of himself into the novel, although not necessarily in an autobiographical manner. The inclusion of a short appendix with the music for some of Janey's songs (written by de Lint) seems to confirm this link and makes the novel a sort of multimedia experience.
For those readers who are familiar with the Newford stories, The Little Country may seem like an extended Newford fable without the Newford setting. In this way, the book is both familiar and a departure from many of de Lint's other novels. The Little Country remains, after nearly a decade, one of de Lint's strongest novels.
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