Monday, October 03, 2011

Enchanted Glass

I read one of Diana Wynne Jones' last books, Enchanted Glass, over the last few days.  It zips along at a great pace, has the usual bunch of strange characters, and oddball events, and is infused with magic as being a normal state of life. 

Interestingly, in this book, magic is seen almost like it was a kind of faith: two of the characters go through a stage of repudiating it in their teens and then coming back to it later.   But also curiously, the Gran of one of the young characters, Aidan, has insisted that he go to church on Sundays while she is in charge of him (and she's seen in retrospect as a positive character in the story) - she has no time for those godless people who don't go to church.  This little detail is just mentioned in passing, but it's something that I haven't seen come up in any of Jones' other stories. 

Like C S Lewis in That Hideous Strength, Jones brings some of the old mythic British characters into her story: Titania, Oberon, Puck, and Oberon's 'first wife', Queen Mab.   The countryside in this story is full of magic, and is accepted as normal by the circle in which the main characters live. 

Andrew, who's inherited his grandfather's 'field of care' early in the story, is an absent-minded Professor...according to some other characters.  In fact, he's anything but, yet he's certainly forgotten a great deal of what he learned as a child from his magical grandfather.   A runaway, Aiden, turns up at the house, and also seems to only be half aware of his magical powers.  The story shuttles back and forth between these two with aplomb, in a way that only a highly experienced author could manage.  The characters, like those in several other books by Jones that take place in the modern world, work with computers and cell phones and the like while equally being at home with panes of glass that reveal more than just what's on the other side of the door or window, or with invisible boundaries that, when crossed, give you a particular shudder, and so on. 

There are some moments when the story falters a little - the climax seemed a bit rushed to me, but that may have been because I was trying to read it in the intervals between performing on stage in The Mousetrap.  Otherwise this is another superb entry in the Jones canon.

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