I put Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn on my ‘to-read’ list because it was one of those classics that also sounded like it would appeal to my reading tastes. And in certain ways it did, but overall the book was nothing I was blown away by.
I think a lot of people have a bit more affection for this story because they’ve also seen the film growing up so there’s a nostalgia factor. I didn’t have that, having never seen the movie. Throughout reading, I found myself pivoting back and forth between trying to just enjoy the story for the fantasy adventure that it was and also trying to understand and decipher the deeper concepts and ideas Beagle was trying to convey with his characters and story.
Here’s the thing, it’s not unheard of for authors to try and have some sort of commentary running through their narrative. Hell, whether it is intentionally or not, authors opinions of things are going to bleed into their writing. But there is a good way to do it and a bad way to do it. I won’t say the way Beagle did it was bad, but I personally didn’t enjoy it very much. It wasn’t as seamless as I thought it could be.
That being said, I did like some of the ideas he had about immortality and how an individual moves through life. You have the unicorn, who is hopelessly unaware of the rest of the world or her own people. Yes, she lives forever and is beautiful but these things do not make a good life. Then her brief time as a human helps her see many other facets of life and how it can be wonderful and terrifying at the same time. It makes me think of the saying, “Ignorance is bliss when it is folly to be wise.” And maybe the unicorn would’ve been happy living in her ignorance of the rest of the world. But even though she had her regrets about ever leaving her forest, she still went, because the illusion of happiness is not true happiness.
It’s been a while now since I’ve finished the book so other thoughts I had have left me now, but I’ll end by saying The Last Unicorn is not one of the best books I’ve read, but there were things about it I did enjoy.