by Peter S. Beagle
Roc, 1999, ISBN 0-451-45763-3
I remember being an adolescent girl. That seems normal enough, because I was one for several years. It’s a bit scarier that Peter Beagle seems to remember being an adolescent girl.
Jenny Gluckstein is thirteen years old, and living with her divorced mother, a music teacher in New York, and visiting regularly with her father, an opera singer. She’s a bit of a misfit at school, which most adolescents are, but she has two friends she spends a lot of time with, and she has a cat, Mister Cat.
And then her mother announces she’s marrying her boyfriend, Evan McHugh, and that she and Jenny are moving to England with him. She’ll be leaving her friends, her life, and Mister Cat will spend six months in quarantine. But her new stepbrothers, Tony and Julian, aren’t too bad. Also, at least she’ll be living in London, and she’ll like London.
Except that Evan gets a new job, managing a farm in Dorset. And the house they’ll be living in turns out to be barely habitable.
Jenny’s a real pill through all this, and she knows it, and it’s mostly intentional. She does eventually meet a girl at school, Meena Chari, whose efforts at friendship she cannot defeat, and eventually the six months are over and she gets Mister Cat back, and things get a little better.
The house is haunted, of course. There are lots of hints, but eventually Mister Cat brings Jenny proof, in the form of his new girlfriend, a ghost Persian. After a little more time, Jenny meets the Persian’s person, Tamsin Willoughby, the daughter of Roger Willoughby, the founder of Stourhead Farm.
Tamsin has been dead for three hundred years, having died around the time of the Bloody Assizes, in 1685. She needs to move on, she should have moved on long ago, but there’s something she needs to do first, and she can’t remember what it is. It begins to seem that perhaps she doesn’t really want to remember what it is. Jenny gradually realizes that, as much as she wants Tamsin to stick around, her continued presence is causing strange problems around Stourhead, and things need to be set right. Over the next couple of years, she meets a Pooka, the billy-blind, the Black Dog , the Old Lady of the Elder Tree, and assorted other unusual beings–along with just about the most terrifying ghost I’ve encountered. Oh, and the Wild Hunt, too.
It’s a very good book, even if in some ways the most peculiar part of it is being that convincingly back inside my own adolescent head again.