In remembrance of Diana Wynne Jones, whose passing I posted about yesterday, I’m sharing this piece which I wrote last year.
Diana Wynne Jones, as you may already know, is an extremely prolific and talented fantasy writer. Iâ€™ve been slowly making my way through her catalog of delicious books featuring idiosyncratic protagonists and magical mysteries. I found out recently that she had a new book published in 2010, and after a few weeks of checking the electronic library catalog and happily finding that my local copy appeared to be checked out by a string of readers until the end of time, I placed a hold on the book. One fall Friday, after a stressful week at work, I was pleasantly surprised to get an email from the library stating that the book was ready for me to pick up.
Enchanted Glass did not disappoint. While I am still hoping to find that another of Jonesâ€™ books is a masterpiece on the same level as Howlâ€™s Moving Castle (my favorite), I am always just purely relieved to read one of her books. Why? Because her writing, her storytelling style, is so effortless that I read her books practically unconsciously. As a child, I could suck up just about any book like drinking a glass of water. As an adult Iâ€™m a bit more self-conscious as I read, and I get distracted by strangely-phrased sentences, awkward dialogue, or the neighborâ€™s baby screaming out on the street. But with this author, I can completely block out everything going on around me and forget about the real world for a while. I bring her books to the laundromat, which is full of flat-screen TVs issuing political talk and Spanish-dubbed movies, small children pushing the laundry carts around just to see how fast they can go, and sometimes (if Iâ€™m lucky) a man with a snake; none of which makes the time pass any faster. DWJ makes laundry OK.
Magic is never formulaic in her books, yet it always holds up to close scrutiny. In the case of this book, it involves a principle I quite enjoyed, having been one of many unfortunate children to wear glasses: the good guys in this book use their naked eyesight to see deeper magic and make their magical commands stronger. I will not bother to get into more specifics with this one; what I will say for a review is that any fan of this author or genre will not be disappointed. And I think it left room for a companion volume, which I hope she is already writing.
Addendum: I was intrigued by one meal that appeared multiple times in this book. It’s presented repeatedly to the central character as punishment by the surly housekeeper, so I can only assume that Diana Wynne Jones was not a fan of it–at least, not as a child. I wanted to give it a whirl and decide if it’s really as disgusting as the central character thinks it is. I figured it was the perfect meal to try during the fall, when the cauliflower was still prevalent at the market and the weather was getting colder. I chose a recipe claiming to have a traditional English flair.
I’ll just say that the meal did not turn out at all as I had hoped. It was a lot of cauliflower. And I didn’t follow the directions as well as I should have, because I didn’t fry the boiled florettes long enough to dry them off. The whole casserole had about an inch of goopy, cheesy water at the bottom. I still think the dish has potential if cooked perfectly, but next time I try it (which may be never), I’ll make sure there are a few more cauliflower lovers around with whom I can share it.