Saturday, March 26, 2011

Diana Wynne Jones

In 2003 Diana Wynne Jones told the BBC that "there are masses of stories left to tell, I'm just sorry I won't live long enough to write them all." Today HarperCollins are
sad to confirm our wonderful and inspiring author Diana Wynne Jones passed away today. She will be much missed
She "was a writer of fantasy, mostly aimed at older children." However, even before I started reading books labelled "romances," I tended to focus on the love stories included in novels in other genres, and wanted them to end well. So while HarperCollins can describe her The Magicians of Caprona as an adventure which
takes place in the Italian Dukedom of Caprona, where spells are as slippery and as tricksy as spaghetti!

Casa Montana and Casa Petrocchi look after the magical business in the Dukedom of Caprona, watched over by its magnificent guardian statue, the Angel. The families have been feuding for years, so when all the spells start going wrong, each naturally blames the other. Then young Tonino Montana and Angelica Petrocchi disappear. Could the terrible rumours of a White Devil who threatens Caprona be true after all?
to me it will always be a reworking of the story of Romeo and Juliet which concludes the love story in a way which makes it much more satisfying than the original.

Romance is somewhat more to the fore in Howl's Moving Castle and its sequel, Castle in the Air. Fire & Hemlock, which reworks the story of Tam Lin, shows how true love can break a curse.

However, as a romance-reader-to-be, it was perhaps Dogsbody which most intrigued me, because it had a hopeful, rather than a happy, ending. It concludes with Miss Smith's observation that "Where there's need enough, a way can often be found" (202) and Sirius's hope "that what Miss Smith said is true" (202). My hope was that one day Diana Wynne Jones would write a sequel; I can be sure, now, that she never will.

  • Jones, Diana Wynne. Dogsbody. 1975. London: Methuen, 1988.


  1. Terribly sad news. She was an amazing and unique writer. Howl's Moving Castle is one of my all time favorite books.

  2. DWJ was a writer of remarkable range and a romancer in many senses of that flexible word. I'm glad I have some books of hers left to discover, and favorites to re-read and share with my children.

  3. The Guardian has an obituary up now, which states that

    Her intelligent and beautifully written fantasies are of seminal importance for their bridging of the gap between "traditional" children's fantasy, as written by CS Lewis or E Nesbit, and the more politically and socially aware children's literature of the modern period, where authors such as Jacqueline Wilson or Melvyn Burgess explicitly confront problems of divorce, drugs and delinquency.

    Jones's fiction is relevant, subversive, witty and highly enjoyable, while also having a distinctly dark streak and a constant awareness of how unreliable the real world can seem. Disguises and deceptions abound.

    [...] She was amused by the considerable academic attention her work attracted; reading in one paper that her work was "rooted in fluidity", she remarked: "Obviously hydroponic, probably a lettuce, possibly a cabbage."

  4. Very, very sad news. Somewhat ironically, on Saturday, I held a talk on fantasy for the non-fans, and started it with DWJ as one of the greatest examples of non-Tolkienesque fantasy.