Tam Lin: A Book Review


I'm sure that most of you have heard the ballad story of Tam Lin. If not, well here's a little summary. It's a Scottish ballad about a girl named Janet or Jenny who meets a young man named Tam Lin. Predictably, they fall in love and Janet gets pregnant. Now, Tam Lin is bound to the Queen of the Fair Folk, who must pay a tithe to Hell every seven years. Tam Lin fears that he will be the tithe this time, and tells Janet how to save him. So Janet does, dragging her love off his horse and holding on to him through a number of shape changes until the Faerie Queen gives up angrily. 

It's one of my favorite tales because the woman is the rescuer and humans win against the Fair Folk, and ends more or less happily, which is unusual. So, I was excited to find this retelling at the library. And my hopes were born out, as the book was wonderfully written. 

I'd better get on to actually reviewing the book, shouldn't I? Now, this retelling is set at a Midwestern college in the 1970s, and Janet is an English major. She loves languages and books (of course), and she enjoys college and makes quite a few friends. The only thing that mars her enjoyment is the mysterious Classics department, which is rather obsessive and has a reputation for messing with people (both the professors and the students). Naturally, her adviser is part of the Classics department, and keeps trying to convince Janet to change her major. While Janet never gives in to this, the Classics department still ends up having an outsize influence on her college life, both in negative and positive ways. 

The story is mostly plain fiction, but there is a little fantasy mixed, mostly to do with ghosts and the Fair Folk. It follows the original plot of the ballad reasonably faithfully, but certainly has its own twists and interpretations. 

I found this to be a very intriguing and some what spooky read, especially the Halloween sections. It really is a fantastic retelling of a fairytale for adults and teens. Although...it is quite obvious when it was written, which can be sort of amusing, though it doesn't detract at all from the impact of the story.

For once, I can't actually think of anything I disliked or that bothered me in the book. There didn't really seem to be anything particularly problematic, except for occasional sexism on the part of the male characters. 

What do you guys think of retellings?
Have any of you read this book and have a different take? 
What are your favorite ballads and/or fairytales?
Tell me in the comments!
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