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Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

Fire and Hemlock (original 1985; edition 2002)

by Diana Wynne Jones

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1,844546,053 (4.11)147
At nineteen, Polly has two sets of sometimes overlapping, sometimes conflicting memories, the real-life ones of school days and her parents' divorce, and the heroic adventure ones that began the day she accidentally gate-crashed a funeral and met the cellist Thomas Lynn.
Title:Fire and Hemlock
Authors:Diana Wynne Jones
Info:HarperTeen (2002), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 432 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:library, children's, fiction

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Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones (1985)


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English (53)  Finnish (1)  All languages (54)
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
DWJ Book Toast, #17

Diana Wynne Jones is one of my favorite fantasy authors, growing up and now, and I was saddened by the news of her death. I can't say I'm overcome with emotion - as personal as some of her work is to me, its not like I knew her after all - but I wish I could put into words how I feel about her no longer being out there, writing new adventures and laughing at all of us serious fans thinking so hard about her words when we should simply get on with the business of enjoying them.

And that's...what I'm going to do. She's left behind a huge body of work, a large amount of which I haven't read yet, so I'm going to reread all my old favorites (and hopefully some new).

When I wrote about 'The Time of the Ghost' a week or so ago I used the phrase 'high concept'. Well. 'Fire and Hemlock' is even more ambitious, and, what's more, it succeeds.

The novel isn't perfect and it took awhile for the future-looking-back narration to take hold, but the character of Polly is engaging, especially in her earlier memories, and the way the story unfolded kept me interested. As she grew up and the romance aspect became more prominent (I've never read 'Tam Lin' or any adaption of it so I didn't have everyone pegged from the start) I lost some interest because it wasn't very believable, but by then I was committed.

Polly's reading, and her writing attempts, were a strong selling-point, too. Diana Wynne Jones definitely took pains to work in the influence of certain books on growing up and the mechanics behind those first endeavors to create something outside of yourself.

Like most Jones novels, things get a bit messy and there are disappointments and small successes for the characters as years go by. We only have Polly's perspective to go by, but she provides all the information a reader needs. Jones doesn't ignore the unpleasant aspects of growing up, or hesitate to give her characters undesirable home-lifes. I'm not sure who wins the bad parenting of the year award in this one, Polly's mom and her dad are both remarkably screwed up individuals.

The fact that Jones' characters and their situations (below the fantastical happenings) are so close to life, really doesn't help Jones' chance at crafting a satisfying ending. There is a climactic ending featuring a convergence of unlikely characters and revealing explanations, but the bow around the final package ends up a trifle lopsided. This is one that needs a more careful rereading perhaps, but it was enjoyable.

-Before I click save I just have to deplore the stiff, fussy cover of this edition. On every level it is unappealing, from Ichabod Crane eyeballing the back of lace-collared Polly's head, to the cheap typesetting of the title. ( )
1 vote ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
"Fire and Hemlock" was enitrly different from what I was expecting in so many different ways, and to my surprise I quite enjoyed it anyway. There was what seemed to be a clear age difference between the two main characters, though toward the end it was sort of explained away as how children view anyone a few years older than them--but it was never explicitly stated how big the age difference was. It's left me to needlessly obsess, since it wasn't that important to the story.

I loved all the characters. They were all beautifully developed and felt utterly real. My biggest complaint is the ending. I didn't quite understand exactly what happened. It was a kind of magic that isn't the usual hocus-pocus, and I feel like it wasn't explained fully.

Other than that, though, fantastic read. I devoured it in two sittings--two instead of one because at one point I was up until five AM and finally gave up for the night and had to go to bed. :) ( )
1 vote whatsmacksaid | Sep 21, 2018 |
Started out well, kept my interest all the way through, then lost me with the ending. ( )
  tldegray | Sep 21, 2018 |
The writing is great, the plot is sophisticated, the ending is obscure. A highly complex, literary book that left me unsatisfied. I would recommend this to adults and older teens, but not to children.

Jones set out to write a heroic quest, but I think she forgot one thing: heroic quests have clear, powerful endings. The hero may succeed or fail, but we understand why. The tale foretells it all the way through - a good ending feels fated, as if no other ending could possibly work. But Jones' ambiguous and strange ending left me confused and feeling cheated. ( )
  JanetNoRules | Sep 17, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Diana Wynne Jonesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Beekman, DougCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nix, GarthIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Viitanen, Anna-MaijaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyatt, DavidIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zudeck, DarrylCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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