Tam Lin

Tam Lin - Pamela Dean, Terri Windling The last time I read this book, I didn't have the window of Fourth Ericson, so I had to content myself with flinging it across the room. I did rescue it again and finish it, however I was so confused by it that I simply could not give it a rating. I knew then that I would have to revisit it at some point. I was browsing in a bookstore a couple weeks ago and stumbled on a used paperback copy, which reminded me of my promise to myself. When I took it down and flipped through it, I saw it was autographed. Knowing that this particular copy passed through Pamela Dean's hands gave me great hope of somehow psychically understanding her intentions for it. Alas, I still feel like there's some key to understanding this book that I'm just too dense to see (which probably encouraged my affinity for Tina in this reading). This time, I was able to really appreciate the descriptions of college life that make up the first three-quarters of the book, rather than being frustrated by them. Though Dean does lay out some mild questions, the Tam Lin connection (and hence my primary interest) doesn't really get started until the last 50 pages of the 450 page volume, then proceeds to its conclusion with bewildering speed. Knowing in advance this helped immeasurably in my enjoyment, but also brought up other issues. I feel like Dean has really written two books that don't quite fit together. All but the end of the book could, with only minor edits, be a wonderful, realistic, coming-of-age literary novel. If the fantasy has been more evenly distributed, it would have made a glorious fantasy novel. Perhaps that's why I'm dissatisfied: the Tam Lin connection seems to be almost shoehorned in at the end. The setting of a college for the tale of Tam Lin is fascinating in concept, but I still can't really see what it does for the original story, or vice versa. I'd almost rather have taken all the overt fantasy out of the tale and let the song imbue the story in a more metaphorical sense. Tam Lin is, and likely always will be, one of my favourite stories. I so much want to love this book, and I still feel that if I read it enough times, I'll figure what it is that Dean was trying to do with it and my adoration will click into place. Dean does hang a lampshade on reactions like mine, which might mean that all my frustrations are for naught and it really is just a flaw in the book, but I so, so don't want that to be the case. I would really rather it be my obtuseness and that somehow I can break through and find this book to be brilliant.