Many years ago, when my daughter would have been nine or so, she came home from the Hobart Library with a copy of a book entitled Dogsbody. She enjoyed this, and so did I, so we looked for books by the same author. I don’t know how she came to pick it up as a possible read – did a staff member suggest it (in which case we can be for ever grateful to that staff member), or was it just a serendipitous choice? As this book was initially published in 1975, it must have been quite new to the library at the time, anyway.
It was written by Diana Wynne Jones, and my children and I have been reading her works ever since. I was very selfishly sad to hear last year that she had died, so we no longer have new books of hers to look forward to. But very recently my copy of her latest (and last, I think) book, Reflections: on the magic of writing arrived at my house and I have been enjoying dipping into it. It consists of a wide range of material produced by Diana over the years since 1975 – critical reviews, autobiographical material, explanations of the origins of some of her books, advice to young writers, and so on. Very interesting are the texts of three talks she gave on what must have been her only visit to Australia – in 1992. Why oh why wasn’t I there to see and hear her in person?
While dipping into this wonderful book, I have been driven as a result to reread The Homeward Bounders (a profoundly sad story) and Enchanted glass (quite the opposite – witty, warm, totally golden) and have taken others of her works off my shelves for re-reading. AND I find there are two I’ve never read – but I have ordered them and look forward to their arrival!
Reflections is very well produced (the ISBN is 978 0 385 65403 6 and it is published by David Fickling Books); as well as Diana’s collected material, it contains a foreword by Neil Gaiman, a bibliography of her works, a preface, and a very helpful index.
If you enjoy fantasy with a very wide scope and range, you should embark on reading her works. There are some novels for adults (though I think any literate teenager would find them very approachable), some for the Upper Primary and YA cohort, and some for the younger reader. There are various series and some short story anthologies, and Miyazaki based his animated movie Howl’s moving castle on the book of the same name.
If you are already a fan, do post the names of your favourite Diana Wynne Jones books on this blog for me to see!