MY LIFE THROUGH THE BOOKS OF DIANA WYNNE JONES
I was one of those lucky people who discovered Diana Wynne Jones as a child. I don’t remember which book of hers was my first, but going on emotional memory alone, I suspect it was either Dogsbody or Eight Days of Luke, both of which remain favourites to this day.
I bought A Tale of Time City new in a children’s bookshop at 18. A friend came back from an overseas holiday with a brand new copy of Aunt Maria so I know I read that one when it came out. I would have been 22. A year later I borrowed A Sudden Wild Magic from the library and couldn’t decide whether I liked Jones as an author for adults or not.
I remember visiting a friend in Christchurch and finding Minor Arcana in a specialist bookstore there. I don’t remember much else of that visit but I know I sat on their doorstep to read (DWJ and Doctor Who) and sat on my glasses, breaking the side arms. I learned my lesson – I don’t necessarily notice my surroundings when I’m reading – and I’ve never bought such fragile frames again, no matter how pretty they are. (But I’ve definitely sat on my glasses again many times over the years.)
I bought Deep Secret new, but I was 28 by then and moving in other directions. I know I bought The Merlin Conspiracy when it came out, but I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never read it. Diana Wynne Jones and I parted company for a decade or more.
But when it comes to Howl’s Moving Castle, in many ways the iconic DWJ book, I have to admit that I don’t remember that one. I have no idea when I first fell for Howl, but I loved it all over again when I reread it a few years ago (in 2010 actually, right after I finished Enchanted Glass).
To kick-start the next generation, I read Dogsbody with my son last year. He adored it. There were a few things that had dated (it was surprisingly difficult to explain the Irish Troubles in a context a child of the 21st century could understand) and I changed up a few words here and there where meanings have altered, but that was all. He has since gone on to read The Ogre Downstairs for himself and I hope there will be many more DWJ books in his future.
But since they’re coming off Mummy’s bookcase or through her Kindle, I don’t suppose he’ll be able to chart his childhood by her books the way I did. That’s okay. Times change. But I can’t help feeling maybe he’s missing out on something.
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About Kerry: I’m a wife and mother of one, living in New Zealand, who has ME/CFS (which tends to rule my life a lot more than I would like). I only manage to blog sporadically, but you can find my bookish posts at Too Many Books, Too Hard to Choose (http://rocalisa.wordpress.com) and stitching stuff at Sometimes Stitching (http://lahaylia.wordpress.com). Points to anyone who can guess one of my favourite authors from the URLS of my blogs.