I've always greatly admired Diana Wynne Jones for the complex simplicity of her writing. She manages to convey emotional depth without seeming to pour it all out on the page. A lot of what you perceive in a DWJ book is hidden between the words. Yet the words are elegant and smooth.
University lecturer Andrew Hope inherits his magician grandfather's estate, the strong-minded staff that go with it and his field-of-care. Though he spent childhood holidays with the old man, Andrew's forgotten a lot of the stories, remembering only frangments, some of them rather odd, like having to put his gardener's overgrown, oversized vegetables on the roof of the shed from where they mysteriously disappear overnight.
Andrew wants nothing more than to write his book, but his staff and his neighbours have other ideas.
Into this situation young Aidan Cain turns up to seek protection from the grandfather, not realising he's dead. Andrew, intuitive if not informed, takes him in and thus starts a double mystery. They need to work out the question before they can find the answer.
There's a cast of great characters, Mrs Stock the housekeeper and Mr Stock the gardener (not related), Tarquin the one-legged ex-jockey who grows roses, his daughter Stashe, girl groom and computer whiz. Mrs Stock's amiable idiot-savant grandson and his magical counterpart, Groil. And then there's Mr Brown, who's more than he seems. Why has he fenced off part of Andrew's woodland and severed his field-of-care? And just what is a field-of-care anyway and why does Andrew need to look after it? Andrew says he isn't a magician, but he's inherited more than money from his grandfather and with the help of friends and neighbours he manages to wrangle his way to the truth in the end.
This is a lovely book and has the advantage that it can be read on many levels. It's the story of a boy in danger, of a man trying to find his way, of a magical mystery, of personal relationships and a slow burning romance. It's published as a children's book but makes equally good adult fare for those who like a cosy read with a high feelgood factor.
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