I have been counting back the years to finding my first DWJ book in the children's section of Belgrave public library.
I always searched through the children's section, partly because I was a primary school teacher, and partly because I often found better writing there than in the adults bookshelves.
Do you know, it was more than thirty years ago! That is how old I am!
But how pleased I am that I discovered Diana Wynne Jones back then and so for my whole adult life I have had the pleasure of her writing.
I was stunned by her stories. I hadn't read anything so rich and full of complex ideas and so satisfying. So full of magic and so full of reality.
The first one I read was 'Spellcoats' and the second was The Power of Three.
Her writing is like inverted science fiction. Instead of taking the newest ideas from science and extrapolating them forward with stories of people trying to cope in those challenges. She goes back to the old traditions, ancient mythologies and folklore and pops these into the modern world, alternative worlds or future worlds (yes science fiction mixed in!).
Her worlds are so rich and complete and full of wonder and magic. And for years it was her ability to make magic real that I thought was what satisfied me most in her stories. It was the magic in the worlds and the way her characters engaged with it that brought the stories to their satisfying conclusions.
But really it is her families that are the best. She understands how truly awful families can be! Families made of individuals struggling and surviving and interacting according to their character: ineffectual mothers, blundering fathers, narcissistic sisters, ignorant brothers, cruel and selfish or distracted and oblivious. Families that almost work and families cracking to pieces. She does them all with insight and where possible with respect, and generally with great dollops of humour.
In her magical worlds and her complicated families she is writing about power and powerlessness and the jostling of realities. They all work together to make each wonderful book of conflict and resolution.
Here is a picture from Howl's Moving Castle. The movie by Hayao Miyazaki, based on Diana's book. I love the movie, but I love the book more.
I heard yesterday that Diana Wynne Jones had died on the weekend and that is why I have been thinking so much of her.
I have borrowed Hexwood from the library. It has the most complex magic, the most horrible family and the most intricate mix of our traditions of magic (and of science fiction). Every time I read this book I understand it more and respect her vision and talent more. Every time I read it I get lost in the story, the wood, the people, the confusion of time and place ~ and the way it can all come together at the end to blessed reality.
Thankyou Diana Wynne Jones.