When folk musician Janey Little finds a mysterious manuscript in an old trunk in her grandfather’s cottage, she is swept into a dangerous realm both strange and familiar. But true magic lurks within the pages of The Little Country, drawing genuine danger from across the ocean into Janey’s life, impelling her—armed only with her music—toward a terrifying confrontation.
Come walk the mist-draped hills of Cornwall, come walk among the ancient standing stones. Listen to the fiddles, and the wind, and the sea. Come step with Janey Little into the pages of…
The Little Country
This one was recommended by Amanda, though Liz vociferously agreed I should read it, especially when they learned I’d never read anything by Charles de Lint. I do think I scandalised them somewhat with that confession. So I dutifully added it to my basket and read it last Summer during my holiday and due to morning/24-7 sickness it ended up on the backlogged reviews pile. So as such this review will probably not be as in-depth as my usual reviews, but it will be heartfelt, as if I remember it with my pregnancy-addled brain, it really must have made an impression on me! So here goes…
The Little Country was first published in 1991, but has the feeling of harkening back to an earlier era, both in the ‘contemporary’ setting of Janey’s story and in the story told in the manuscript of The Little Country. Janey’s story seems to be set in the late seventies to early eighties, while the manuscript is set even earlier. As such to me, the book had a quaint and old-fashioned feeling, which I really rather liked. It took me a few chapters to get into the flow of the book, but once I did I was wholly immersed in De Lint’s world.
The book is essentially the interweaving of two stories, the main one being Janey’s story, in which she discovers the manuscript of The Little Country and not only finds out there is something magical about it beyond the charming story told within, but also needs to protect the story and its secrets from corporate sharks who want to get their hands on it for nefarious purposes. The other part is the actual story told in the manuscript, which like the book is called The Little Country. This latter story is about Jodi and her adventures when she is turned into a tiny, little person, no larger than a fairy by the village witch. She is saved by the village children and some of the eccentric adults who live there. Both stories are set in Cornwall, which lends an atmospheric and magical feel to both of them.
Of the two, I enjoyed Jodi’s story the most, as it resembles a fairytale and has many folkloric elements to it. Her meeting Edern, another traveller who’s been turned into a little person by the Widow, is the catalyst for the rest of her adventures and I liked that there was both a hint of romance to their meeting and more importantly a friendship formed that would connect the mortal world with the Barrow World, the world on the other side of the veil, where magic is real and music is its voice.
Janey’s story centres on music as well, as she’s a well-known, even famous, fiddle-player and music is her life. While Jodi’s narrative was my favourite, I did like the more gritty and mystery-like atmosphere of Janey’s narrative. She runs into some pretty nasty characters and has to do some serious investigating to keep the manuscript safe. And in Janey’s part we do get a full-blown romance, when her ex-boyfriend Felix makes an appearance because he received a letter that Janey needed him, a letter Janey didn’t send. I really enjoyed this aspect as well, as Janey and Felix have to learn to trust each other again in the midst of turmoil and plots and chases by the bad guys.
Overall, I really enjoyed my first experience reading Charles de Lint and I look forward to exploring more of his work. Seeing as he is quite a prolific author, there is a lot to choose from! If you’re like I was and have never read any of his work, please pick up The Little Country; it will sweep you away to a magical place and show you what classic urban fantasy looks like, with tramp stamps or vampires anywhere in sight. So thank you Amanda and Liz, for giving me another author I need to catch up on, as ever your recommendation was spot on!