Diana Wynne Jones – Gone But Never Forgotten
Diana Wynne Jones died on Saturday.
I didn’t find out until yesterday because I studiously avoid bad news, and lately the news has all been bad.
This was too.
Flashback thirty years or so to find me, a lifelong fan of British children’s fantasy, cruising the children’s section of the library in Tustin, California. I saw the title Charmed Life on the spine of a book. Sounded promising. I pulled it out and read the first sentences:
Cat Chant admired his elder sister Gwendolen. She was a witch.
Well. I had to check it out, along with the other two books on the shelf by the same author – Power of Three and The Ogre Downstairs. That’s how I became a Diana Wynne Jones groupie at the age of twenty-three.
This was in the dark ages, you understand – before Amazon or online anything. If you wanted a book that wasn’t on the shelf in the local bookstore (even though there were more of them back then), your only option was placing a special order and waiting six weeks for the book to be shipped from the publisher. I didn’t let this deter me. After all, I worked in one of those bookstores. I had ready access to Books in Print. I ordered my own copies of all the Diana Wynne Jones books that were in print in the U.S. at the time.
After that, it was always a thrill whenever I discovered a new DWJ – like the time I found a copy of The Homeward Bounders on the shelf in the Yale Co-op. I loved lending her books out too. Proselytizing. Pulling new fans into the DWJ camp, even though I was almost jealous of those who hadn’t read her books. Imagine having all of them, fresh and new, awaiting discovery! Charmed Life was always the first for any new recruit – that’s how I lost my original hardcover copy. I loaned it to someone who never returned it.
If you’ve never read anything by Diana Wynne Jones, do yourself a favor. Find a copy of Charmed Life and let Cat’s world unfold in front of you. Read Power of Three – Adara’s confession scene is simultaneously heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny. Vivian’s translation scene from A Tale of Time City? Don’t drink milk while you’re reading it or you’ll end up snorting it out through your nose. The Magicians of Caprona. Dogsbody. Howl’s Moving Castle. There are more.
But not enough. Never enough.
Read them all and celebrate this woman who was able to bring such magical adventures to life.
I will miss her. After you read her books, you will too.