Friday, January 30, 2009

Unfinished: Tam Lin by Pamela Dean

Ever hear amazing things about a book, acquire it, and then simply are unable to get through it because, well, it's just not your thing?


I always feel bad when I do that. Because authors, editors, publishers, marketers, reviewers, librarisn, teachers, readers like ourselves--all put so much time and effort to make a book. And yet, occasionally, there are just some that don't appeal to you, and so many others that do, and really, the best thing might just be to pass it on and see if anyone else might like it a little bit more than you.

So introducing the first "Unfinished" book on my blog...

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean

Janet Carter, an English major, starts college at Blackstone, a liberal arts enclave in the Midwest. She and her friends fall in with a group of beautiful and talented male Classics majors (and they all quote from heavy literature 24/7—why??). It’s a retelling of the Scottish ballad of the same name, where Janet must battle a faerie queen (Professor Medeos?) for the possession of Tam Lin’s (Thomas Lane’s) heart and soul.

I feel like this is one of those books that you either lovelovelove or hatehatehate. Those who love it do so because of Pamela Dean's skillful descriptions of life at a liberal arts college in the mid-70s. Those who hate it complain about the fake, pretentious characters, the slow pace, and the too-detailed descriptions and dialogue.

Me, I guess I'm in the second camp. I heard such good things about this book and so ordered it with high hopes. However, I found the characters annoying and unrealistic. I'm attending a liberal arts college now, but no one I know speaks in such a high-fallutin', quote-filled manner. I found myself irritated at the overexuberant descriptions of the campus; must NOTHING be left for me to imagine? Must I know the location of every building, bridge, rock, and tree on Blackstone's campus?

TAM LIN is more a detailed sketch of college life rather than a retelling of a fairy tale. I was disappointed that there was not more fantasy in it--guess I was expecting some. I have a feeling that those who love this book are those who can relate to the liberal arts college student life back in the 70s. It's the 21st century, college is so much different, and I just couldn't get into this book.


It's such a cool cover, too. Lime green, one of my favorites! Alas. Time to pass it on into the Wonderful World of Book-Swapping..


  1. There certainly wasn't anyone like that in my college - I might have hung out with them. Ha! I totally know what you mean about overdescribing. I remember in The Tale of Murasaki by Liza Dalby it bugged me so much that she had pages about pages of descriptions of each and every kimono Murasaki wore. Once, ok. Every one? NOOOOOOOOOO!

  2. Hi Steph,

    Join us for Little Lovin’ Monday. It's a cool way to share reads you've enjoyed while blog hopping.


Hello! I'm so excited to read what you have to say. Due to high amounts of spam, I'm forced to disabled anonymous comments for the time being. Sorry for any inconvenience this causes, and I hope you can understand and still appreciate the content here!


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