on 11 June 2001
Diana Wynne Jones's characters are always down-to-earth, real people - warts and all - in slightly skewed worlds. This story is a portrait of four girls neglected by their parents, seen through the eyes of a ghost who thinks she is one of them, but is not sure which! The characters of the sisters are explored in a sensitive yet realistic - and humorous! way. As the story unfolds we discover more about the circumstances leading to the ghost's existence, and it builds to an unexpected and satisfying denouement. Wonderfully written.
on 8 May 2005
I don't want to spoil the plot of this book, because the first chapter is so atmospheric and Jones hides the problem of her heroine so cleverly. In fact, the first part of the book is very atmospheric and very clever; it's only in the second part that things start to unravel, because you have a POV twist which doesn't quite work, and at the end of the story you're left scratching your head wondering what happened. Of course, those who liked it will go back and read again.
Unlike 'Fire and Hemlock', the mythology in 'The Time of the Ghost' is not so strong - actually, I wish she'd expanded upon this, as it only appears in the second part of the story. It would have perhaps added a deeper layer to the story, which ends up being rather like the film 'The Craft' (although this book was written before that).
Oh, and if you don't believe that four girls could be this neglected by their own parents, Diane Wynne Jones based the girls' situation on her *own childhood* with her younger sister, and actually left out some incidents because she thought that people wouldn't believe them! (Like the youngest sister, she did her hair in knots and waited to see how long it would take for her mother to notice - apparently, it took her mother two weeks.)
It's not her best, but it's still a brilliant read!
on 18 June 2007
I'm a fan of Diana Wynne Jones and this book is one of her strongest and strangest. She writes for several different age groups (all her books are entertaining for adults): this one is probably for teens and up, because it is among her more complex and emotionally demanding works. My favourite Diana Wynne Jones books have a trick of picking themselves up and shaking themselves so that matters turn out to be wholly different from how you first thought they were. Hexwood, Archer's Goon, and Fire and Hemlock, as well as The Time of the Ghost, all do this supremely well. There is a tremendous pleasure in tracing such bravura plotting and in the imaginative detective work needed to work out the rules of each fictional world, but a particular view of character and moral development also emerges: DWJ's characters find out startling things about themselves and about each other, suddenly perceiving new viewpoints and sometimes changing as suddenly. The Time of the Ghost juxtaposes members of a disfunctional family with their older selves, showing how immensely they have changed but also showing how bad early choices - choices about personal relationships as much as about the supernatural side of things - have continued to hurt them. The book offers a wonderfully complicated plot and a powerful, dark atmosphere but also emotional truth. Highly recommended.
on 4 July 2013
I have only been a fan of Diana Wynne Jones for a year or two, and so I'm not as much of an expert on her as some other reviewers on this site. However, I have noticed some recurring tropes in her fiction, including the notion of absent or incompetent parents, which is a theme brought out particularly vividly in this novel. The parents here are hideously neglectful and Jones conveys the potential for damage that such behaviour can cause very effectively.
The four sisters, as children, are in many ways awful and unattractive - the gap-toothed, goblin-like Fenella, the large and loud Cart, the neurotic Imogen and Selina who seems to be embracing the dark arts. Their behaviour is both ignored and controlled, in that they are allowed extraordinary freedom to do as they please due to their parents' lack of interest, but at the same time they are constrained by the circumstances of their living in a boarding-school environment, and being expected to behave in a way that fits with their parents' vague ideas about propriety. Their father's reference to them as 'bitches' and his inability to tell them apart, and their mother's failure to notice that one of them is missing, or to care that her youngest daughter appears to be wearing a sack and has tied her hair in knots, is both astounding and horrifying, but also has the ring of truth.
These children appear incredibly vulnerable and Jones constructs a wonderful atmosphere of impending danger in the first part of the story - when Imogen is almost killed by being suspended from the rafters on a rope, or when Sally creeps out of her friend's homely farm in the middle of the night, or when Fenella and Cart have to virtually steal food from the unpleasant school cooks, these events all feel like part of the gradually building tension. And the second part of the story shows how this sense of danger is grounded in reality.
This ability to create atmosphere is a particularly admirable skill in Jones's work and it is demonstrated very effectively in this book. The weird life the sisters experience as children lends itself to the weird supernatural experience in which they become embroiled, and the clever plot-device of having the viewpoint of the tale that of a 'ghost' who doesn't even know who or what she is adds to the disconcerting and disturbing effect the story has right from the beginning.
A shocking mini-climax in the centre of the tale suddenly alters the reader's perspective as we are pushed forward in time (then back and forth several times) and our view of the sisters changes considerably. Jones conveys the fact that these unpreposessing young women have managed to grow up well, despite their problems, but a terrible pall still hangs over their lives until the ghost can help to defeat Monigan. I felt that, while the whole 'Monigan' story was interesting and well done and added an appropriately gothic creepiness to the story, the actual story of the girls themselves, their individual psychologies, was enough to keep me hooked - and I actually wanted to know more about their lives.
Jones does not shy away from presenting the truth about people; even when her stories are in themselves implausible fantasies, I find the insides of her characters' heads almost always convincing. They may not be like me, or even like anyone I know, but nevertheless I believe in them as people. I think this is a real gift in a writer, particularly a writer of children's literature.
on 15 January 1999
If you like a good mystery, or you just like to solve puzzles, then this may be the book for you. The main character, the ghost, can't figure who s/he is. All the possible people are revealed in trips back in time. Can you figure it out before the ghost does? I truly enjoyed this book. And, neither I nor my daughter could guess who was the ghost. It had to warn the children! But, about what? Great thriller.
Another clever combination of realism and fantasy from Diana Wynne Jones. Drawing closely on her own childhood, in which she was neglected by her schoolteacher parents and in which she and her sisters became inseparable as a consolation, Jones tells the story of four sisters: Cart (Charlotte), Sally (Selina), Imogen and Fenella, left to run virtually wild in the boarding school at which their father, always known to the family as 'Himself' is a Classics master and their mother Phyllis a matron. The girls, all highly imaginative, invent a series of elaborate games, including the worship of a strange made-up goddess called 'Monigan' (based on a rag doll owned by Fenella - the doll becomes an icon in 'The Worship of Monigan'). But is Monigan just a game? Cart soon becomes convinced that by inventing this worship the girls have actually invoked some strange, vengeful pagan goddess or spirit who is capable of wreaking havoc. And so it would seem - the sisters' lives are being watched by a ghost, who gradually comes to realize that she is the spirit of one of the girls, and that something must have happened to her to make her into a spirit. But what? Is she dead? To begin with, the ghost believes that she is the spirit of Sally, the only sister she doesn't see on her first visit to the boarding school, and this hypothesis is strengthened by her appearing to have Sally's memories. But when the ghost does see the real Sally, she becomes more confused. Is she a figure from the future sent to save one of the sisters from danger? Later, in a chilling episode, the ghost seems to be reunited with her body, and finds herself in hospital, an adult, and seriously injured following an accident. She knows now that she is a real person, and one of the sisters - but which one? Gradually, as she slips between the past and her childhood and the present, and as members of her family and friends gather at her bedside, the woman begins to realize her identity, how she came to be injured and what 'the Worship of Monigan' actually meant.
This story is a clever mixture of humorous realism, psychological insight and fantasy. To be honest, the realistic elements and the psychology were the bits that interested me most: I loved the descriptions of the sisters (caring, calm - usually! - Cart, misfit Sally, temperamental Imogen and quirky Fenella) and their lives at the school, the depiction of their friendships with some of the boys (particularly the 'otter-faced' Will Howard and Ned Jenkins the wild caricaturist) and the scenes with the parents (though these were chilling, bringing home quite how unsuited to be parents some adults are). I loved the descriptions of the boarding school and the messy house in which the sisters lived, and found Jones's depiction of how the girls changed as they became adults quite fascinating. There were some great set-pieces: a Latin class, a scene where the sisters try to get the ghost to speak by making it drink blood, a scene where Fenella steals food from the kitchens as the girls' mother hasn't given them any supper, a description of a bicycle ride to the burial mound where the girls believe Monigan lives. The supernatural elements didn't draw me in quite as much as the other aspects of the book - mind you, I found them convincing and interesting, and Jones certainly provided some interesting reasons for why the girls were drawn to 'invent' Monigan and later to try to defeat her. A warning - there's a couple of rather gruesome bits including a depiction of a car accident, which are best read very quickly!
A very thoughtful book, full of superbly created characters, laced with dry wit. Another Diana Wynne Jones triumph!
on 31 May 2013
I loved this story, it is a brilliant twist on a ghost story that will keep you wondering,part who is it, part who done it, ghost story. Lovely characters that you quickly learn to love and empathise with, extremely funny in places. It tells the story of four eccentric sisters and their strange life where their parents run a boys boarding school but while they have all the time in the world for their male boarders they have little time left for their daughters, who are left to run wild, taking care of themselves while fighting with one another then with equal furiosity defending each other against 'Himself' as they refer to their father.
The story is told through the eyes of one of the sisters who has become a ghost, only she doesn't know why?
on 23 May 2012
I loved this book and was so excited to read it! The cover was what attracted me to it, the beautiful and magical
Picture of a doll on the front. The book itself was very fascinating and i could not put it down. However there are
Some bits where it was pretty difficult to read as I hate blood. I would recommend this book to anyone who isnt faint hearted :)
on 20 May 2014
A ghost story with a complicated plot, involving time travel (for the ghost), a very strange family and a school for boys. The characters are not really very well developed, and there is an evil background that is never really explained or dealt with. Well wriiten, though.
on 28 May 2015
An imaginative tale of ghosts, curses and so many brilliant plot twists. One of Diana Wynne Jones's best novels for both teens, YA and adults.