Monday, August 2, 2010

"Polly sighed and laid her book face down on her bed."

Fire and Hemlock is Diana Wynne Jones' modern retelling of the Scottish ballad of Tam Lin, a story of fairies, trickery and love.  Polly is a college student who is slowly regaining memories about a part of her life that was completely forgotten.  The thing is that she has alternate memories of events for the same time period, which implies that the other memories were taken from her forcefully.  As Polly remembers, she discovers that she might have been responsible for ending a unique friendship and losing something precious to her.  And the answer seems to lie in the photograph she has on her bedroom wall of fire and hemlock.

I know that is a bit short of a description and not very telling but part of the joy of this book was in having no idea where it was going, even into the last few pages.  As one of Diana Wynne Jones' longer novels, this is also one of the most complex and some things are left to the reader to decipher and imagine.  Polly is a strong but flawed character, even in the beginning as a ten year old girl.  Many of the other characters are adults and they are anything but one-dimensional.  In fact, this might be the first Diana Wynne Jones novel that I felt wasn't entirely appropriate for a younger audience.  With a bit of violence and a lot of emotional turmoil, I would designate it a young adult and older read for sure.

This is definitely one of my favorites and the list lengthens of DWJ books that I would recommend!

Never underestimate the power of a good story,

Find a used copy of Fire and Hemlock or borrow it from your local library as we did.  It is sadly out of print at the moment.


  1. Must admit, I'm not very familiar with Diana Wynn Jones, but this book sounds like one that would appeal.

  2. I loved Fire and Hemlock and this really makes me want to read it again as it's one of those that needs more re-reads for a better understanding and better appreciation (as well as just to enjoy getting into this world again.)

    I really liked that this was also one of her more older, more grown up books. different to what I am used to. It also felt less fantasy (even though it most definitely was) but I loved how it dealt with Polly's growing up and her family issues very, very well.

  3. I just posted about this one today too! :D

  4. I love this book so much - and I'm so glad you did too!

  5. Oh hooray! Of course you loved it, everyone must love it! (I'm glad you loved it.)

    But I do not care for that cover. Actually I have never seen a F&H cover about which I felt unmixedly enthusiastic...I suppose it would be quite a hard book to design a cover for.

  6. I don't know why this author's name sounds so familiar as I'm pretty sure I haven't read anything by her. The description intrigues me!

  7. Tracy - I hope you try it!

    Fiona - Definitely agree that the book needs a re-read to understand better!

    Eva - Awesome. ;)

    Nymeth - I have a feeling that I will love it more on a second read.

    Jenny - I know that this is one of your faves. Well chosen! And yeah, the people on the cover are NOT Polly and Tom. They're too weird.

    Jenners - Probably just from around. Quite a few bloggers are huge fans!

  8. Never know where she's going--exactly!

  9. Found you through Mrs. G, and couldn't resist a retro-comment on F&H & DWJ in general - WOOT! It's a great book, and I was so happy to find your review. I'd love to know what you think of the end (the pools, Leroy and Tom, the cello, the horse...I've read it more times than I can count, but cannot yet get a visual on exactly how it looks...)

  10. Rebekah - Thanks for stopping by! Anyone who loves DWJ is a friend of mine. :) I definitely need to read F&H again soon because there was so much that I need to solidify in my mind. I think I had a fairly good mental picture going but it will probably be different next time.