I was so sad when I heard that DWJ had died last year. She was such an amazing writer, with a (literally) fantastic imagination, so funny & able to be serious simultaneously. She wrote beautifully, but never pretentiously. There is a certain amount of repetition in this book, which is inevitable with a diverse collection of short & long articles covering a very long & active career. I especially appreciated her critique of the Lord of the Rings: Peter Jackson should have read it before messing around with the narrative & characters in his movies. Her discussions of her own books are fascinating, & inspired me to buy one thaat I hadn't already read. Neil Gaiman's foreword is very moving too: he loved Diana and knew how under-appreciated she was. She should certainly have won many more awards than she did.
It's just amazing to have this collection of Diana Wynne Jones' essays and lectures when we thought we'd have no more of her wonderful writing. There is inevitably some repeats and overlap, but this is unimportant. How lovely to find out so much about the background to our favourite stories. There's a whole level of Fire and Hemlock that I shall now have to dig out.
I still haven't finished reading this book, but having read just Jones' paper on The Lord of the Rings, I can tell already the rest will be fascinating! In her characteristic style of quirky, yet simple to understand, Jones unravelled one side of Tolkien's trilogy, and makes fantastic analysis of all the literary techniques that he uses. She knows her stuff! I wouldn't recommend this for young fans of Jones' fictional work, but if you have read her books and are now old enough to appreciate the craftsmanship of symbolism, then this will make a fantazmagorical read!
I hadn't heard of DWJ until I saw one of those google front pages showing her anniversary a while back. I got "Charmed Life" on audio and I've been trying to pick up the Chrestomanci novels (the unabridged readings, by Gerard Doyle) from the US. Her essays are interesting enough, and its clear how her world-view was shaped by childhood events / upbringing. I'd particularly recommend reading the essays at the end, by DWJ's sons - wow. Truth to tell, I do prefer "Dreams and Wishes" by Susan Cooper (author of the 'Dark is Rising' books) - I find it a more absorbing and pleasurable read in terms of 'writers on writing'. But any good female fantasy author is a good thing, for my money. We've got to have more!
If you write fantasy then this book is an absolute must read. The essay on Tolkien's narrative shape in Lord of the Rings alone is worth the rather steep asking price. This is a book for DWJ's older fans - young readers probably won't get so much from it. I found the whole collection of essays both brilliant and illuminating. The only downside (it's a minor one) there is a bit of repetition with some subjects as DWJ uses some similar material in a few of her lectures. It is still worth reading as whole however. For one thing you'll get an insight into how deeply thought out and complex her books are, while seeming simple on the surface. For another, as with most of her books, DWJ tricks you into looking at the world in a new light without once sermonizing or suggesting you should do so. The introduction by Neil Gaiman is also very moving. To be treasured and re-read and only leant to friends you absolutely trust to give it back
This is a must-read book for anyone who has a love of stories and of making thing up. It’s also the book to read if you’ve read even just one Diana Wynne Jones book and loved it, let alone if you’ve read them all. There’s a handy bibliography at the back with a list of all her books and I note that I think I still have a few to read. This is both shocking and comforting, as I can’t ever really imagine not having a new DWJ book on my to read shelf.
It’s hard to know how to review this book in precisely the same way that it is hard to pick apt quotes from it. If I were to we quote every bit that needed to be quoting it would be 320 pages long and the book I have just read.
So rather than quote any more, I say “just read the damn book!”. You really won’t regret it.
This is one of Diana Wynne Jones' last books and a delight to read. She received a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2007, as well as two Mythopoeic Awards and the Guardian Fiction Award for Charmed Life. Her thoughts on writing and literature in general are a joy to read. Wonderful to have this book even though she is gone from us.
This is a wonderful collection of Diana Wynne Jones' essays and lectures along with other non-fiction pieces about her life. I was so thrilled to find that the novels and short stories are not 'the end'! If you are at all interested in her books, I highly recommend it. (Personally I've enjoyed all of the books of hers that I've read and many are my favourites). You don't have to be a writer to enjoy it, although there is a lot in it of interest to writers of fiction. I was worried it might be too dry, but on the contrary it demonstrates just what intelligence and knowledge lay behind her writing and also contains as much wit and entertainment as her fiction writing. It serves as a great tribute to my favourite writer and one of the best children's book writers of any age.