shepline | the journal

DWJ Week: The First and The Last


[location | Oxford]

[tags | diana wynne jones, dwj week, fire & hemlock, reading]

Diana Wynne Jones Week 1-7 August 2010It's Diana Wynne Jones week this week, and I've been taking my time in deciding how best to celebrate this fact, and which book to review. My friend Jane has already reviewed Fire & Hemlock, my all time favourite Diana Wynne Jones book – and indeed my all time favourite book full stop – and I can't really better such a brilliant review. Jane has already reviewed another (or be it recent) favourite, in Deep Secret. Here then lies the tale.

Fire & Hemlock was the first of Diana Wynne Jones' books that I read. I still have the battered and well-thumbed, much-loved Methuen Teens edition with that smokey and evocative, chalk cover illustration. I devoured Tom and Polly's story completely. This was back in 1989 - my friend Simon recommended the book to me in Geography class at school. I went on to seek out all of her other books over the next few years devoured them all. I remember my brother thinking that there were two authors of the same name, confused as he was by Diana's ability to write for both young children and older teenagers.

Charmed Life stands out as a book I really enjoyed and I did like many of the early Chrestomanci novels including The Lives of Christopher Chant and Witch Week but for me Charmed Life cannot be one of my favourite books simply because (unlike many) I don't count the Chrestomanci books as a whole as Diana Wynne Jones at her best. As a series I do not find them as successful as her stand-alone novels. I also have a preference for her real-world fantasy which is why I like Tom and Polly's story so much. It is firmly set in the Here and Now (or nowhere I guess...) and there is a reasonable explanation for almost everything fantastical that happens.

It is perhaps fitting that my second-favourite Diana Wynne Jones novel is the last one that I have read. Deep Secret is another real-world fantasy with wonderful similarities to all that I liked best in Fire & Hemlock; a will-they-won't they relationship between the main characters; the sci-fi convention that echoes the fair scene in Fire & Hemlock.

Another favourite is Tale of Time City, which I think, really might be due a re-read. I wonder if Jane will pick this story up for one of her remaining reviews of the week?

( previous entry | next entry | link | 4 comments | post comment ) @ 04/08/2010 06:20pm GMT

Oops, sorry about beating you to F&H and DS! They are wonderful though :)

I agree with you that the Chrestomanci novels aren't her best, in my opinion. I enjoy them a lot, obviously, because they're still DWJ and even DWJ at her least good is still miles better than almost any other author around, but they just don't fizz and sing to me in the way that a lot of her other books do. In general I've found I much prefer her standalone books.

And will I do Tale of Time City? Wait and see... ;)

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shepline @ 04/08/2010 06:29pm GMT

I'm currently composing another Fire & Hemlock inspired post as I speak, this time from the writer/inspiration side of things. I think I'm taking a different take on the celebration of DWJ. :-)

I'm counting on either Howl's Moving Castle or House of Many Ways, or possibly both, making an appearance in your list at some point!

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(Anonymous) @ 04/08/2010 08:29pm GMT

Witch Week and Charmed Life

Witch Week and Charmed Life are amazing!! I like all of her books with the exception of the Homeward bounders which I felt lacked something. I have read and re-read WW and CL and can't wait to share them with JJ when he's old enough - mind you same goes for all the others; 8 Days of Luke, Howard's Goon, Fire and Hemlock and so many more I can't remember now but wish I could! Gosh, I so wanted to be one of those misfit kids in WW and then discover I was magic!! And for some reason I can't fathom, the phrase 'Crossley, my glad-eyed bear' still pops into my head from time to time! I'm very glad it's Diana Wynne Jones week, she very much deserves one!

( link | thread | reply @ 04/08/2010 10:16pm GMT

Fire and Hemlock was one of the last Diana Wynne Jones books I read--I think it must have gotten put back in print at a key moment, probably because of the Harry Potter books. But it's my favorite too, and is at least in my top five favorite books of all time.

I'd love it if you reviewed Tale of Time City! The two reviews I've seen of it so far have been rather negative, and I'm concerned it's not getting a fair showing. :p

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