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Black Maria [Kindle Edition]

Diana Wynne Jones
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

On the surface, Aunt Maria seems like a cuddly old lady, all chit-chat and lace doilies and unadulterated NICEness!

When Mig and her family go for a short visit, they soon learn that Aunt Maria rules the place with a rod of sweetness that’s tougher than iron and deadlier than poison. Life revolves around tea parties, while the men are all grey-suited zombies who fade into the background, and the other children seem like clones.

The short visit becomes a long stay, and when all talk of going home ceases, Mig despairs! Things go from bad to worse when Mig’s brother Chris tries to rebel, but is changed into a wolf .

Mig is convinced that Aunt Maria must be a witch – but who will believe her? It’s up to Mig to figure out what’s going on. Maybe the ghost who haunts the downstairs bedroom holds the key?

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“…Her hallmarks include laugh-aloud humour, plenty of magic and imaginative array of alternate worlds. Yet, at the same time, a great seriousness is present in all of her novels, a sense of urgency that links Jones’s most outrageous plots to her readers’ hopes and fears…”
Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Diana Wynne Jones spent her childhood in Essex and has been writing fantasy novels for children since 1973. With her unique combination of magic, humour and imagination, she has been enthralling children and adults with her work ever since. She won the Guardian Award in 1977 with Charmed Life, was runner-up for the Children’s Book Award in 1981, and was twice runner-up for the Carnegie Medal. She is married with three sons, and lives in Bristol with her husband.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1625 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks (6 Dec. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009YBU25E
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • : Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #246,068 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Diana Wynne Jones is recognised internationally as a major writer of fantasy and in 2007 received a LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD at the World Fantasy Convention. She has also won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award (twice) and the Guardian Award for CHARMED LIFE. Her books have been translated into more than eighteen languages, and her novel HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE was made into an animated film by Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. Diana lives in Bristol with her husband, a professor of Early English literature.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Call her Aunt Maria 26 Aug. 2011
Everyone has one -- an older relative who disapproves of you unless you do what she wishes, and isn't nearly as nice as she pretends to be.

But "Black Maria" turns out to be even worse than your average annoying relative, in this engaging, humourous and chilling fantasy novel. Diana Wynne-Jones spins a fantastical story of witchcraft and revenge, all centering on the elderly lady who sweetly lords it over Cranbury-on-Sea.

After her father is apparently killed in a car accident, Mig and her family go to stay with Aunt Maria, mainly because her mother feels guilty. Aunt Maria is very prim and very sweet, and makes a point of guilting people into doing what she wants. Life revolves around Aunt Maria's tea parties, and the men and children act like automatons.

Mig and her brother Chris hate it there, despite the sad ghost who appears in Chris's room. But they start to suspect that magic may be at work, and that Aunt Maria may be at the center of it. When Chris annoys her, she transforms him into a wolf. Now Mig must uncover a magical plot that stretches back over the decades -- and is the key to dethroning Aunt Maria.

It's hard enough to deal with such elderly, sickly-sweet relatives if they are normal. Imagine if they are cold-hearted witches, who turn their own daughters into wolves. And if Diana Wynne-Jones was trying to make people feel lucky for not having an Aunt Maria, then she succeeds beautifully.

Jones paints a chilling picture of Cranbury -- sort of a "Stepford Wives" situation, except it's Stepford Husbands and Kids, all slaves to the stifling sweetness of Aunt Maria. The one weak spot is the ending -- it's not a terribly bad ending, but it is kind of weak, especially compared to the quiet menace of the past several chapters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes your heart beat 19 May 2013
By Hiatus
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I adore Dianna Wynne Jones, and have read practically everything she has written. She hated sentimentality, obfuscation and poor plotting, and avoids all three in Black Maria. Aunt Maria herself is a fabulous character to have created, and she's one whom you will want to avoid, but will repeatedly recognise in others around you. This is clearly written, and the different plot lines are handled really well. As with all her books, there are some gutty themes, so not great for a very sensitive child. Otherwise, would heartily recommend and, if you don't like to get caught reading children's books on your own, then read this aloud at bedtime.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Black humour, black magic, golden prose 6 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I approached this novel with the attitude that it was a children's book so I wasn't expecting too much. I should have known that, it being by Diana Wynne Jones, it would in fact be much more delightful, intricate, atmospheric and unusual than I was expecting.

Cranbury is beautifully imagined and there is a great deal of social satire in this book - maybe even a sneaky homage-cum-dig at the slight twee-ness of Gaskell's Cranford. The 'respectable' women of the town and their zombie-like husbands are truly creepy, and also often very funny, but Black Maria herself, the town's boss-lady, is the most chilling and brilliant creation. Wynne Jones manages to present a biting critique of the sort of control-freak elderly female relatives many of us have experienced, the sort of women who use their supposed helplessness to manipulate the kind hearts and sense of duty of other people, while also revealing the true horror of such people. Aunt Maria is a witch of the worst kind - more refined than Biddy in 'Wilkin's Tooth', less obvious in her nastiness, but nevertheless a scary and unkind monster of nastiness and selfishness.

The children in the story don't like their aunt even before they go to Cranbury. Their mother, though she has an adult's tact and understanding, is also not exactly enamoured of the hideous old crone. Only the boy, Chris, has the courage to stand up to her, saying the things we would all like to say to such people at different times. I remember saying exactly those sorts of things to a particularly unpleasant relative of my own in childhood, which led to rarely seeing her ever after - how much better a fate than that which befalls poor Chris!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Savage humour masked in a children's story 4 Feb. 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
No one quite does magic like Diana Wynne Jones. There is a strong appeal for younger readers, but beneath, a wicked humour enriches the novel for all readers. Sinister, funny and wise.
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