I love Diana Wynne Jones, and because I have not told you why I love her with sufficient vehemence or frequency, I will tell you why right now. It is because her characters discover things about themselves! They discover things, and they learn! Glorious! People in her books proceed by instinct and guesswork, and although these are not my own preferred means of proceeding, I like it that Diana Wynne Jones’s characters succeed. Their approach to magic is beautifully matter-of-fact. People can learn to do magic better, or more specifically, from teachers; but at a fundamental level, and often very successfully, they do it by instinct. Charmain in House of Many Ways says “Pipes! Freeze!”, and they do it.
House of Many Ways is about a sheltered girl called Charmain who only wants to sit and read. Her family sends her to care for the house of her grandfather while he goes away to be healed by the elves. There are piles and piles of dirty laundry there, and a kitchen full of dirty dishes, and Charmain, without the first idea of how to do regular household chores, settles for reading books and learning how to do magic and helping the king and princess organize their library. Unlike in most books where the protagonist likes to read and her parents wish she would desist, Charmain’s reading has served her ill in some ways (well, that and her mother’s determination that she should be Privileged). She’s incapable of doing regular chores like laundry and dishes and cooking, which gives rise to much mockery by a boy called Peter who comes to stay at her grandfather’s house to be his apprentice.
Oh, and Howl and Sophie make an appearance. And Calcifer. Howl and Sophie and Calcifer and Morgan all make an appearance. Though the book is not about them, and I do not feel there is enough of them, they are their usual delightful selves. More Sophie! More Sophie and Howl!
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In more recent news, Enchanted Glass is about a professor called Andrew who inherits a house from HIS grandfather. Having failed to reach his grandfather in time to get instructions as to how to care for the magical area over which his grandfather held dominion, Andrew has to figure out how to care for it his own self. His memory is helped by the arrival of a young boy called Aidan, who is running away from Social Workers and scary magical monsters. There is a cantankerous old neighbor who seems obsessed with barbed-wire fences, Security, and what he calls “counterparts”. I could have done with more cool glass-related magic, but otherwise I was very happy with it. The glass is plainly the glass from Deep Secret, by the way – I’m glad she found a use for that glass, which did not get any real (as opposed to theoretical) play in Deep Secret.
Diana Wynne Jones! I love you! Live forever!
Did I miss yours? Surely I missed some reviews of Enchanted Glass! Tell me if I missed yours!