The Time of the Ghost

The Time of the Ghost - Diana Wynne Jones

DWJ Book Toast, #16

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).

Holy high concept! This is definitely one that I have conflicted feelings about. On one hand. I appreciate what Jones is doing here, but I also see (and remember from personal experience) that it might be too complex for a younger reader. And I hate saying that.

Here's the story: A girl is suddenly aware that she is on a country road, she knows she is headed home but on reflection can't remember why, where, or what "home" is, or even who she is! She also realizes that she doesn't have a body. Soon she identifies herself with four strange sisters and has uncomfortable feelings about a game they invented called "The Worship of Monigan".

The sisters' parents run a boarding house for a Boys' School and the sisters mostly live in mildly shocking conditions of neglect. I say mildly because in the post-Hoarders, post-kidnapped-and-raised-in-a-cellar world I find it hard to think of what "normal" neglect is. A plan is in place to show their parents how much they're ignored. A plan that has sent one sister away. At first she thinks she is the ghost of the absent sister and must be dead, but that is (eventually) proven wrong when the other sisters and some of the students call Sally up on the phone where she's staying. Jones keeps the identity and the communication of the ghost indistinct for a long time. The ghost herself has a hard time thinking clearly in her state and can't be sure if she is even one of the sisters at all. All the while the sinister force known as Monigen has a plan in action.

The slow pace of the plot and the multiple timelines make this a hard book to get into. I remember attempting to read this 13-14(?) years ago, before 'Dark Lord of Derkholm' at any rate, and being put off by it. So much so that even after I went nuts about Jones I didn't pick this up again until a few days ago when I stopped by my old town library.

Because, within the elaborate framework of the story, you get a feel for how the sisters interact with each other, and some of the boys, and the girl up the road, and hints at the internal politics of those relationships in childhood, and how they transition (if at all) into adulthood, but it just doesn't go past the surface. Of all of Diana Wynne Jones' novels that I've read so far, this one really would have worked only if she had rewritten it for an older audience. Maybe young adult, but I'm thinking adult adult. There is a lot of potential in what is outlined here, but as is it's a mess.

Still, I give her points for daring.