Three years ago my best friend decided it was time to surprise me with a book called Howl’s Moving Castle. As a huge Miyazaki fan I loved his film – no, not loved, I adored Howl and Calcifer and Sophie and wished with all my heart that I could live in their world and be a sorceress as well. The film was (obviously) based on a novel but I never gave it much thought, not until I received an actual copy of it for my birthday. I still thank my best friend for buying me that book every once in a while.
I was so nervous when I started reading the book because I was afraid I wouldn’t like it since the film was so good. I was wrong. I ADORED the novel. It was quite different than the film but in a good way. It seemed to me as though Miyazaki and Jones took the core story of the novel but then made it their own. Howl was a superb main character, Sophie became my role model and Calcifer, well, I sort of wished he was my fire demon.
I then read the other two books in the series though the first one remains my favourite. Each novel had a list of all the author’s books written in them and I was shocked to see how many there were! I was puzzled by the fact that this clearly talented writer wasn’t mentioned more often. Where was she all my life? Even today not many people know about Diana Wynne Jones and I’m really frustrated about it because she is a genius when it comes to fantasy writing. An actual genius.
Her Crestomanci series is hilarious and filled with unexpected plot twists. The worlds she creates are entwined with magic in a way that makes you long for them. I almost cried because I wasn’t a part of them. Jones has a way with words that is unlike any other writer I’ve come across. Neil Gaiman speaks highly of her and he also started reading her books when he was a teenager. Her books are mainly written for children but they’re not childish at all. In fact they are rather complex and the language itself is far from being simple and straight-forward.
I just spend an hour browsing through the books I haven’t yet read to see which I’ll buy first. The old covers aren’t as ornate while the newest editions are beautiful but since we do tend to judge a book by its cover I keep wondering whether this is one of the reasons her books aren’t so widely known. But I think the biggest reason is that her writing isn’t mainstream and it’s mostly intented for children and I can’t think of many adults who would willingly admit they enjoy reading children’s literature. Well I do and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
There is a point to my post and I think you might have a clue as to what it is already. I’m not trying to sell you anthing, not at all, though I would be so happy if you could take the time to read one of her books (I suggest Howl’s Moving Castle because it’s a good way to be introduced to DWJ’s worlds). What I won’t to point out is the fact that a lot of good authors who write quality literature are hovering somewhere in the background while the popular writers steal all the show. I’m not saying that all popular novelists are bad, but just because a book is a bestseller that doesn’t mean it’s actually any good.
I am quite sad to find so little written on Diana Wynne Jones and I’ll definitely write reviews of her books because they are my favourite and they do deserve to get in the spotlight. Fire and Hemlock for example is my favourite book of the year and I might even like it better than Howl! Anyhow I’ll stop praising miss Jones now but if you are a fan of fantasy literature please give her books a try. I promise you will not be disappointed.
In case I haven’t been persuasive enough and my word doesn’t mean that much, here is a wonderful post about DWJ that Neil Gaiman wrote after the author passed away. It’s beautifully written but then again everything Neil Gaiman writes is beautiful.
Even if only one person decides to read DWJ novel after reading this post, I would count that as a success (in case you do read it please message me afterwards, I’d love to hear you thoughts on the book!). To great authors who seemingly create magic out of thin air: thank you.