Apr 4, 2011

A Tribute to Diana Wynne Jones

by Emily May

There are a few authors whose books I absolutely love, whose books I collect and reread and reread. Georgette Heyer -- of course! -- and Jenny Crusie, Lois McMaster Bujold and Diana Wynne Jones. Alas, this week came the sad news that Diana Wynne Jones has died.

Jones wrote both young adult (which are my favourites) and adult novels. Her writing is beautiful, quirky, whimsical, and her young adult books are a brilliant mixture of magic and everyday life, menace and humour.

If you haven't read any of Jones' young adult books, you've missed something! If you'd like to discover the magic of her writing for yourself, here are some of my favourites. These are the ones I reread every year:

The Magicians of Caprona -- this is my number one favourite! Set in an alternate Victorian Italy that is awash with magic. It's one of Jones' young adult Chrestomanci series.

Witch Week -- another Chrestomanci book, this time set in a boarding school for witch orphans in a world strangely like our own...

Howl's Moving Castle -- a fabulous book about a perambulatory castle, an (apparently) evil wizard, and a (definitely) evil witch who turns a young girl into an old woman.

The Lives of Christopher Chant -- the story of the young nine-lived magician who will become Chrestomanci (in an alternate Victorian England) -- if he doesn't stop losing his lives...

Charmed Life -- the tale of the young (orphaned) magician who'll be the next Chrestomanci -- but his lives are vanishing too! Is someone else using them up?

Of course, there are other fabulous ones. The Power of Three is one of the first books by Diana Wynne Jones that I ever read, and is at the top of my pile to be read again this year.

And I must reread Conrad's Fate, a Chrestomanci book that went into storage not long after I bought it and has only had one reading!

It's always a joy to read a book by Diana Wynne Jones. Sadly, there will be no more of them; but she has left a marvellous legacy for us to enjoy.

Rest In Peace, Diana Wynne Jones -- you'll be missed.

If you've never read any of Jones' books, do give one a try! And if you've already discovered her, please share your favourites with us.


  1. Thanks Emily. I've never heard of her, but will put her on the To Be Read list (esp. now that my Emily has taken to reading in English - I found her the other night, sitting by the nightlight, trying to read...promptly installed a bedside light, while my heart sang with joy!).

  2. Hi Emily! I must admit I never read her books when I was a kid - but by the oddest coincidence I picked up a DVD in the library (wasn't on display, was just in the usual pile) -and it was Howl's Moving Castle - I know the film is different to the book but the kids and I loved the movie so much we did some research on the internet and discovered Diana and that she'd died a couple of days before. Read all the obits etc and wondered why I had missed her as a young adult myself?! (probably because I was reading all those Georgette Heyer and M&B!!!). But my son loves fantasy - but I think he may be a bit young yet - I might have to read one to him first - which do you think I should start with?!

  3. Yay on having a daughter who likes to read, Jo!! I think your Emily would love Diana Wynne Jones. Start her on the Magicians of Caprona -- it's set in Italy, so it should really resonate with her!

  4. How old is he, Natalie? I think the main character in The Magicians of Caprona has just started school and is about 7-8 years old. Unfortunately, my copy is in storage, or I'd look it up for you!

    Has he ever read the Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton? Or the Wishing Chair books? They're both great for 6-7 year olds and full of magic.

  5. Great tribute, Emily! I have to confess I've read any of Diana's books! But they sound wonderful so she's going on my TBR list! Might raid the library this afternoon while I'm in town.

    Sharon - anticipating some fab reads!

  6. er, that should have been "I've NOT read any of Diana's books" - slip of the typing fingers!

  7. Emily, that's so sad. I've just broken the news to my 18 yo son who's upset about it. Not looking forward to telling my daughter. Her books obviously captured the imagination. I loved the one of hers that I read.

  8. I've never read one of her books, but they look fabulous from your descriptions. And if Annie's children are upset, then DWJ must have really made an impression. Shame I'm only finding out about her after she's gone.

    Will check her out at the library! Thanks for the advice, Em.

  9. Ditto, I'll have to check her books out, though when I worked in libraries, I know how popular she was.

  10. I'm another who has never read any of these books. There are so many fabulous authors out there it is hard to keep up.
    a great tribute, Emily.

  11. Sharon, I understood what you meant! :-) I hope you enjoy discovering DWJ -- like I said, she's one of my absolute favourite authors.

  12. Oh, dear, Annie, I'm sorry you have to be the bearer of bad news! But I'm glad to hear that other people love DWJ's books -- she's certainly worthy of a devoted readership.

  13. You're welcome, Rachel -- I hope you enjoy her. Some of her books are truly fabulous! Such a wonderful imagination, and such fantastic use of English.

  14. Joanne G, do give her a try! Nice to hear she's popular in the libraries. I think the popularity of Harry Potter meant that many of DWJ's books have been reprinted, which is excellent.

  15. Thanks, Sue. Don't know whether you're a fantasy reader or not, or whether you ever read YA books. If you do, give her a try!

  16. Oh, how have I never heard of this author before? Gorgeous tribute, Emily, and while the one thing I don't need is more books for my tbr pile, I HAVE to read Diana Wynne Jones now. I'm tossing up between "Howl's Moving Castle" (my favourite from the blurb) and "The Magician's of Caprona" (on your recommendation). To help me choose tell me what's your favourite Heyer between -- Faro's Daughter and A Civil Contract?

    Oh, am rubbing my hands in glee over this new find!

  17. What a lovely tribute, Emily. One to do an author proud!

    Sticking my oar in here, Michelle but I loved Faro's Daughter,

  18. Michelle, of those two my fave would undoubtedly be Faro's Daughter! Fabulous book! You like A Civil Contract??? It's a Heyer I've never managed to warm to!

    Both Howl and The Magicians of Caprona are briliant. Why not read both of them?! They're YA, so won't take long... (But if you only have time for one, Magicians is always my top pick! There are lots of redheads in it, if that helps you to decide -- ex-redhead that you are...)

  19. Oh, yes, just read your comment, Zana -- Faro's Daughter is an absolute gem! One of Heyer's best!

    Thanks, glad you liked the tribute. I'm very sad she's died.

  20. Ah, well the redheads seal it :-) I will definitely go for Magician first then (and if I love it, I will read everything else).

    Faro's Daughter is my all-time Heyer fave followed by The Grand Sophy and Cotillion. But I do love a Civil Contract too. It's a very clever book and Heyer really pushes the romantic conventions to the very limit. I can't help but admire her skill.

  21. I hope you enjoy it, Michelle. And I agree with you about Faro's Daughter -- love that book! Can't agree with you about loving A Civil Contract, though...

  22. Emily

    A great tribute to an obviously great author I have not read any of her books but have added her name to my list of author's books to look out for

    Have Fun

  23. Thanks, Helen! Do look out for her books -- and if you find one to read, I hope you enjoy it!