A Tale of Time City

A Tale of Time City - Diana Wynne Jones

DWJ Book Toast, #18

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).

Pay no attention to my measly two stars, because, as I have been coming to realize more and more, though every child exposed to Diana Wynne Jones remains a devoted fan for their entire lives, her books are simply not for adults. They tap into this chaotic wellspring that most of us can't access once we've grown up. In reading and rereading so many of her books this past year I've found that while some are still powerful on an "adult" level, 'A Tale of Time City' is one that leaves me feeling that I've arrived at a birthday party to find the party over, and my piece of saran-wrapped leftover cake has gone slightly stale.

Most of the time I willingly overlook "flaws" in the plotting or the writing or the pell-mell conclusions, because other aspects of Jones' work really get to me, but I just couldn't link myself to much in this story despite the emphasis on the importance of history. Vivian was a fish out of water and evoked sympathy, but I couldn't root for Jonathan or Sam, even if they were on Vivian's team. One was the kind of bossy pretend know-it-all I despise, and the other was reduced to knowing how to fix things and eat butter pies. There were some great moments -- one of the boys compliments Vivian, who had been on a train being evacuated from London due to the Blitz, for her realistic gas mask, her indignant response: "It's not realistic, it's real!" The two boys, and most of the residents of Time City possess that bafflingly common belief that people in the past weren't people, not really. Every time I encounter it, I despair a little, it's probably akin to when mathematicians hear kids going off about hating math or how math doesn't make any sense. Something else truly remarkable came late in the book when Vivian witnesses a quiet moment of grief when

Jenny looks to her husband and her sister about the fate of her brother, the villain, after the climax.

(show spoiler)

The moment isn't even really described, Vivian only thinks to herself that some things just can't be fixed.

So, while this outing wasn't as successful for me as some of her others, I won't discourage anyone from picking 'A Tale of Time City' up, I'd only suggest they either be young or better at keeping their grownup objections to a minimum.