James Hetley’s Summer Country

‘The fiddle chased him and pounced, and then the two instruments rolled around like a pair of kittens playing with a catnip mouse. A flute joined in, and the ball of fur turned into rambunctious reel, one Brian had never heard before. And then the deep booming of the drum nipped one of them on the tail, and it leaped up and turned a backflip before diving back into the music.’ — James Hetley’s The Summer Country 

Once upon a time there was an old maid in a garret … Oops, that’s the wrong tale … hmmm … and the woodcutter’s son and the princess were married, of course. They had a huge wedding. I was invited, and I told the best story that I’ve ever told. As gift, they gave me a pair of shoes, made of cheese, and a pair of stockings made of sweet cream. On my way home, I was set upon by mice, who ate the shoes, and by cats, who lapped up the stockings, and so I returned home with nothing, except this story… No, that’s the ending to another story, the one Tadhg, our seannachie, was telling… Now where were we?

Ahhh, that was where I was. The Summer Country. I ended up reading this novel, which arrived in the weekly shipment from Penguin Putnam, because Charles de Lint wrote one of the coolest recommendations I’ve ever encountered. Would I have read this novel of Celtic music, the fey, and the Summer Country without his thumbs up? Quite possibly.. But his words convinced me to read it now. Here’s what he says: ‘You don’t find many books like this, never mind first novels. Hetley’s The Summer Country is like an old Irish whiskey — dark and smoky, abounding in flavor and detail. For the jaded reader of Celtic fantasies such as I’ve become, bone-weary of all the pale and limpid novels that try to pass themselves off as the real thing, it’s such a treat to find a book as strong as this. The Summer Country is all the things a good novel should be: a tightly-written, resonant, single-volume story rich with flawed characters, dark visions, and quiet joys, with a whisper of true mystery, lying there in wait at the very heart of it all.’ Now that’s an amazing recommendation! And you can read Michael Jones’ review of The Summer Country below!

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