I have been challenged by Jane to come up with my Top Seven Diana Wynne Jones books – that’s seven books for seven days of the DWJ week. Seven books, I thought, that sounds easy I can come up with a list of seven books. Actually, its a remarkably hard thing to achieve which just goes to show how reliably good a writer Diana Wynne Jones is. I have ranked the first book as top of the list but beyond that it is impossible – I love them all equally for different reasons and what I rank next will change daily depending on how I think of them, and remember them.
Warning: The following contains the inevitable spoilers…
Fire and Hemlock
I’ve spoken of this book before, and of why I love it so much. It’s just such a classic, beautifully told, intelligent story. Yes, I know people who dislike the story and can’t read it because of the questionable relationship between Tom Lynn and Polly as a young girl, but its still a damn good story where nothing bad (in that way) happens. It’s also one of those rare books where, upon each re-reading you always gain some further understanding, notice something new, and love it just that little bit more.
As previously discussed I find this book works for the same reasons that Fire & Hemlock. It’s what I call ‘real-world fantasy’ (does anyone else use that term), and I mean that even though half the book takes place a multitude of different worlds. The main story, the story that we all care about happens in the real world, in and around recognisable places, the fantasy crosses into those everyday situations so utterly deliciously.
What’s not to like in Charmed Life. This was my first Chrestomanci novel that I read, and is, far and away the best. Why do I love this book so much? I think its because the way that Diana Wynne Jones takes you on a journey where you cross allegiances – a trick that I find is rarely pulled off. You start off thinking that Gwendoline is the heroine of the story, but she’s not, she’s far from not.
A Tale of Time City
Many people don’t seem to rate this. I’m not sure why not. For one thing its a stand-alone story, something that is increasingly rare amongst Diana Wynne Jones’ canon of work. Forgive me if my review isn’t accurate, its too many years since I read it, but I do remember it and as something worth remembering. The story takes a while for you to get into, but persevere and you will be rewarded with a marvellous time-switch novel of the highest order. And if I recall correctly, some brilliant parallels with Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities.
Power of Three
It’s hard to say why this story is important to me without revealing the ending and in that the reason for reading the novel. My advice with Power of Three is to sit back and enjoy it, and guess at what is to become, and constantly be surprised and have yourself second guessed and proved right until the final reveal. You won’t be disappointed in this story which takes our historical heritage and twists it into something new.
What’s not to love about Dogsbody? Actually, I think that’s all I can say about it. I loved that book. 🙂
Howl’s Moving Castle
This is everyone’s favourite I think. Well, everyone who hasn’t ranked Fire & Hemlock higher. If I’m honest I think I struggled a bit to get into this book the first time I read it. I know, I know, the shock of it. But once I did get into it, I was away. I think the problem was I didn’t care so much for Howl the first time I read it. I liked Sophie, and Calcifer, and their sparring relationship, but I guess I wanted more of the title character and he is strangely absent for much of the book, which is odd since he’s the title character. Enjoy this though and then relive it all in House of Many Ways.
There you are, there’s my top seven Diana Wynne Jones books. Maybe not the best reviews, and much of it taken from memory, but my honest opinions. Finally, I’m currently reading The Merlin Conspiracy. This is the second time I’ve started reading this book, notionally a sequel to Deep Secret. I’m struggling, it has to be said. It’s not quite got the consistency of magic that her best books have.