Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary and Tam Lin

lpuszcz at lpuszcz at
Mon Sep 18 16:14:30 EDT 2000

I was really interested by all the comments on these books, because I've
never had anyone to discuss them with. I enjoyed _Tam
Lin_ so much (although I think the criticism of the book mentioned on
the list is justified) that I used a book gift certificate (best kind of
gift there is) to buy the hardcover version right when it first came out
(and I never do that).  I think that the circumstances affected how I felt
about the book (I kept thinking, I spent my gift cert on *this*? If I had 
gotten it free from the library I might not have been so diappointed) but
I have changed my opinion somewhat.  Mostly because the book really stayed
with me.  I used to think a "good book" was simply one that I enjoyed
reading, but I have come to think now that a "good book" (or perhaps I
should say "interesting book") could also be one that stays with you after
the reading is through, for whatever reason, good or bad.  I've read many
books that I enjoyed at the time, and then months or years later tried to
recall anything about the book and couldn't.  _Juniper, Gentian, and
Rosemary_ stayed with me, so I think that says soemthing about it.  I'm
not sure what, though.  Possible spoilers ahead...

Someone on Amazon wrote that J,G,& R takes all the worst parts of Tam Lin
and exacerbates them.  I found the quoting to be a lot more tedious in jg
&R, maybe because the character wasn't an Enlgish major (and she was in
high school).  The whole chapter where several scenes of Julius Caesar are
quoted drove me crazy.  In Tam Lin, the parts which included Hamlet and
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead made sense, because they paralleled
Thomas's situation.  But I could never figure out why Julius Caesar was so
significant  (perhaps because I haven't ever read it). Much of the book
felt like padding.  It interested me to find out that JG & R was
originally a short story by Dean that she expanded into a book.  Soemone
on Amazon wrote that Dean only had enough plot to fill a short story and
padded it with quotes to make a novel-sized story. It felt that way to
me too: the structure of the book bothered me: the introduction of the
demon plot (which was intriguing), then chapters and chapters of
filler (at least it seemed to have little relevance to the plot) and
then the abrupt ending, with some things so
neatly tied up and some which weren't at all (what was the whole time
machine thing?). But then someone wrote an
interesting review of the book which said to look at the book as if 
it were events being seen through the
eyes of a young kid who just got infatuted with the wrong person.  They go
along for months not seeing the world clearly (but thinking that they are)
and then all of a sudden, it's like the world comes back into focus and
they look at their situation with lcear eyes for the first time, which
(sort of, but not completely satisfactorily) explains the abruptness of
the ending).  To me, J G & R read like a rough draft which was in ned of
some serious reworking but had great potential.

End of possible spoiler

A friend of mine tried to teach _Tam Lin_ in a freshman composition class
and the class  loathed the book. They repeatedly (and surprisingly
eloquently, considering what she told me about their written work)
expressed this hatred . I think she was being overly optimistic with that
one (her theme was updated fairy tale retellings; she also did
_Deerskin_). What helped a little was that I found an "Annotated Guide to
Tam Lin" and to J G & R  on the web which does at least reference some of
the more obscure quotes. She passed it out to her class, and it seemed to

And someone asked if there was anything on the list who hadn't read the
Narnia books.  I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in second grade
(age 8) and was apparently not intrigued enough to read the rest.  I'm
feeling now like I should try them again.


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