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Favourite AND Best: DWJ

Pursuant to my earlier post about best and favourites of children's lit - everything I wrote about there I read as a child, and, indeed, began reading at or before the age of seven. One author that I did not discover until I was in my late teens or early twenties, but whom I have continued to read and delight in ever since is, of course, Diana Wynne Jones. I feel as if I am part of an exclusive club - Those Who Know How Great DWJ Is!

Thus, I was thrilled to see Neil Gaiman's tweet this morning, announcing the lovely article about DWJ in the Guardian Book Blog. You can read it for yourselves, so I won't discuss the contents, except to say that she talks about how wonderful DWJ is and how difficult it is to choose an all-time favourite.

I have no difficulty choosing an all-time favourite ... well ... almost no difficulty ... maybe it's a tie. I think, if I were tied down and poked with sticks, I would plump for Fire and Hemlock as both my favourite and undoubtedly her best. I love it for its complexity, the dense intertextuality, the lovely relationship between Tom and Polly and indeed the unusual for DWJ emphasis on close human relationships of all kinds. And I've never found the ending ambiguous at all (but then, I'm a hopeless romantic and an optimist).

But, as a close second, by only a shade of a whisker, is Howl's Moving Castle, which for me is the ultimate comfort read: funny, irreverent, romantic, charming ... what can I say?

And then there's Dogsbody, with its remarkable presentation of the dog's point of view. And Time of the Ghost, and The Homeward Bounders, which I think is possibly my THIRD favourite DWJ book, maybe. But that would mean that I'd be leaving out Charmed Life, which was the first of her books that I read but still one that I love. Or The Ogre Downstairs which still cracks me up.

I can't wait for this summer's conference - All DWJ All The Time! What could be cooler than that?

PS: I need a DWJ icon.



( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 9th, 2009 04:17 am (UTC)
It's wonderful to hear someone enthused about something she loves. I'm happy for you that you get to go to the conference.

Edited at 2009-05-09 04:17 am (UTC)
May. 9th, 2009 07:21 am (UTC)
I was just trying to work out the other day what my favourite DWJ was. (I've been doing some re-reading.) I, too, don't think I can pin it down to a single favourite. Fire and Hemlock is definitely up there; it's probably the one I've reread in its entirely the most times, and the one that stirs the deepest emotional response. Howl's Moving Castle is definitely another favourite, and so is The Lives of Christopher Chant, which was the first of hers that I read. (I wish I'd read Charmed Life first, though - another one I love.) I'm also very fond of Dogsbody, and although I don't normally like her adult books as much, I do like Deep Secret very much, too. While I wouldn't put it in the ranks of all-time favourites, I enjoyed Conrad's Fate a lot, too; I just love teenage Christopher.

But if we're talking about books of hers that I most often open up, that would have to be The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, which I use as a reference book. :-)
May. 9th, 2009 03:37 pm (UTC)
You remind me that I liked Conrad's Fate a lot, too - I've only read it once and should re-read it!

And yes, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland is brilliant (and I like the two books that kind of illustrate it, too)

Are you going to the conference, by any chance?
May. 9th, 2009 09:54 am (UTC)
Um, yes - the pick your favourite game - always tricky! I'm with you on Fire and Hemlock as first, and pretty much for the reasons you give. (And with you 100% on the ending - they didn't get that far to fall apart later.) Howl's Moving Castle - yes, it's up there, in part for being more layered than it appears to be, though I was never a Howl-swooner. But definitely in contention for top-rank is Deep Secret - only partially as it was responsible for getting to know steepholm as more than an agreeable presence on-list! It's probably my favourite romance in a lot of ways, and I love Rupert's unobvious romantic heroism. Christopher Chant as my first DWJ... Good thing nothing depends on ranking them consistently. :)
May. 9th, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC)
Yes, I like Deep Secret a lot, too. I remember writing on the childlit listsrv when I was reading it that it was so good I didn't want it to stop.
May. 9th, 2009 10:16 am (UTC)
Fire and Hemlock is my fave too, I think - for all the reasons others have given. But it doesn't show every aspect of DWJ, of course, and to show more of her facets to best advantage I'd have to select at least three others: Drowned Ammet (for what she does with the gods), Archer's Goon and maybe The Merlin Conspiracy. But of course, that leaves out lots of favourites too - waah!
May. 9th, 2009 03:32 pm (UTC)
I think I like The Spellcoats the best of her Dalemark books, though I read Cart and Cwydder first, and always liked it a lot. Yeah - Archer's Goon is great, too.

But I agree that you'd need to read at least three or four to get a real appreciation of her range.
May. 9th, 2009 02:19 pm (UTC)
It's really hard. I love
Fire and Hemlock
, but
has to be in there too, and
Homeward Bounders
, and
Charmed Life
. And how could I leave out the Dalemark books, which are awesome?

The only one I don't enjoy is Wilkins' Tooth, which is a bit too much of its time. All the rest have to be desert island books, without a shadow of a doubt.

This is my DWJ icon - it includes her autograph on my copy of F&H!
May. 9th, 2009 03:33 pm (UTC)
I should re-read Hexwood, because so many people rave about it but for me it was a bit "meh." I don't really remember it, except that it turned my brain inside out even more than Fire and Hemlock did.
May. 9th, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC)
Apropos children's books, have you come across this:

If not, you might like it.
May. 10th, 2009 11:26 am (UTC)
I so very much wish I could be at that conference.

I pretty much have a set of four favorites, and have given up on ranking them: Fire and Hemlock, Howl's Moving Castle, The Lives of Christopher Chant, and The Homeward Bounders. With others running close behind, like Eight Days of Luke, which was my first introduction to Norse mythology and permanently warped my view of Loki. But if I had to pick one, like you, I would go for F&H, because that's the one that made me become a writer.
May. 10th, 2009 04:26 pm (UTC)
I think those would be my top four, too, substituting Charmed Life for The Lives of Christopher Chant (which I obviously need to re-read: I wonder if so many picked it because they read it _before_ CL, whereas I read them in publication order). I'm glad to see another vote for The Homeward Bounders which is also one of my all-time favourites even though I find the ending terribly sad.
May. 10th, 2009 07:40 pm (UTC)
I definitely read TLCC before CL. I also just like Christopher better, for some reason, though I couldn't put my finger on why. It might have something to do with the latter portion of the book, after Gabriel gets blown into pieces. Cat gets to protag fairly heroically at the end, but he doesn't get to run things in the same way; once he frees Chrestomanci, the adults take care of a lot of the threat for him.

(I also love Millie. And Tacroy. And Throgmorton -- OMG, love on Throgmorton.)
May. 21st, 2009 03:13 pm (UTC)
I read Howl's Moving Castle at least once a year.
It never gets old!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )


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