Before I start talking about this one, I feel I should admit that many years ago (pre-blogging) I acquired a copy of Beagle’s The Inn Keeper’s Song upon a recommendation about how good he was. And I eventually got rid of it, after having never read it.
Our narrator is Jenny Glustein a nineteen-year-old student, taking us back to the time when as a thirteen-year-old, she is uprooted from her New York home to live in England with her mother’s new husband and his two children, on a farm in the midst of Dorset.
It’s no surprise that she isn’t fantastically happy about it, oh she’s happy for her mother and despite herself she likes her new father-in-law and siblings well enough especially Julian her new younger brother, but she just doesn’t want to be there, when her only friends are thousands of miles away. And for a city girl like herself, the countryside just doesn’t have enough going for it.
It doesn’t help that her cat (called, Mister Cat, who is one of my favourite characters in the book) is stuck in quarantine for the first six months she’s in England.
Of course things aren’t as bad she thinks, as I said, her new family has its good points, she makes a new best friend at school, and Mister Cat is soon strutting his stuff around Stourhead Farm.
Nobody goes up to the third floor of the Manor House, they’re too busy trying to sort out the rest of the property (which appears to be trying it’s best not to be sorted!), until one day Jenny does and there she meets Tasmin Willoughby, a ghost who has been ‘living’ on the farm for the last 300 years.
And then a wonderful ghostly mystery begins. Why has she been there for 300 years, what happened to her beloved Edric, and just why can’t she remember?
It’s a beautifully woven tale with lots of Dorset history and folklore woven into it. But what really makes the story is Jenny’s chatty narration (well that and Mister Cat’s personality!) I wouldn’t say it’s ever a particularly scary story (though it does have it’s moments as it reaches the climax), but it is a wonderfully atmospheric story packed with fantastic mythical creatures, legends and ghostly characters.
I’m really glad I decided to correct my previous error and actually read one of Beagle’s books instead of ignoring it on the shelf.