I never really got what was going on half the time in a Diana Wynne Jones book.
I loved reading Fire and Hemlock. Really loved it. But what on earth was going on at the end of that book? Does ANYBODY get it?
If you get the ending, can you please explain it to me? I understand that it’s a Tam Lin/Thomas the Rhymer riff, but the actual actions of the characters is just bizarre, and the author never explains what’s going on during that concert. WHAT IS HAPPENING THERE?
I see that others are just as confused:
Which is comforting.
My favorite of her novels is The Time of the Ghost. I mostly get what’s happening in that book.
It goes like all of DWJ’s novels that I’ve read have gone: like a mystery novel where the reader is not informed that this is a mystery novel. They’re like Dostoyevsky novels (!!) in that the reader is very often confused about what the characters are reacting like they are: a family reads a letter, and the mother faints. WHY DOES SHE FAINT? Oh, sorry, you won’t find out until about 70 pages from now. Events are not explained in advance to the reader: the reader must suss out and slowly discover what’s going on: the contents and meanings of the novel slowly reveal themselves over the course of the novel. What made no sense 70 pages ago is suddenly explained. “Ah!” the reader thinks. “So that’s why the sister ran out of the room!”
What an interesting way to write a novel. I wonder if I could do that? Hmm.
DWJ’s obituary in the Guardian best sums up why I love her novels so much:
Jones’s fiction is relevant, subversive, witty and highly enjoyable, while also having a distinctly dark streak and a constant awareness of how unreliable the real world can seem. Disguises and deceptions abound. Though avoiding criminally dysfunctional families or unwanted pregnancies, her cleverly plotted and amusing adventures deal frankly with emotional clumsiness, parental neglect, jealousy between siblings and a general sense of being an outcast. Rather than a deliberately cruel stepmother, a Jones protagonist might have a real mother far more wrapped up in her own career than in the discoveries and feelings of her child. The child protagonist would realise this, but get on with the adventure anyway.
Her works were very compelling for those reasons.
The New York Times writes:
[Diana Wynne Jones] began writing children’s books because the ones she was reading to her own children displeased her.
Not a bad reason to start writing!