Over and over I tell people that one of my favourite books to read and reread is Tam Lin by Pamela Dean. This gorgeous story of book reading, faerie lore, haunted buildings and crunchy autumn leaves, is the book that basically ruined university for me before I even got there, because the real experience could never compete with the haze of nostalgic Shakespeare-adoration.
[Reader: I became a Classics student. I regret nothing.]
Tam Lin is a historical novel about being a liberal arts student in the 1970’s, falling in love with your university, first boyfriends, best friends, theatre, birth control, and oh, fairies. The magical elements of this novel is such a slow boil that the you get past the middle of the story before the frog is even warmed up, but oh it’s worth the wait.
I read it in my teens and over and over through adulthood. It must be a good 13 years since I read it last (my big rereading binge when I was pregnant with my eldest) but I’m starting to feel that it’s time again… even if I basically know every word and scene and character by heart.
If you haven’t read this before… it’s so good! If you enjoyed Jo Walton’s Among Others, or anything by Diana Wynne Jones or Catherynne M Valente, I think you’ll get something out of it.
If like me, you already know you love Tam Lin, then consider pledging to Pamela Dean’s Patreon to help keep her head above water as she works on finishing and self-publishing her new novel.
Recently someone recommended I read this fanfic sequel, The Piper, which is gorgeous. Set in the 1980’s and capturing the same tone as the original, this tells of Janet’s two younger siblings, facing down Professor Medeous and the faery tithe seven years later. It reminded me of everything I loved about Tam Lin.