Enchanted Glass, by Diana Wynne Jones (2010, Harper Collins, 332 pp).
30-something Andrew Hope had spent his summers having, literally, a magical childhood at his grandfather's home off in the English countryside. But as he grew older, and went into academia, his memories of the magic faded. When he finds he's inherited both his grandfather's house and its accompanying "field of care," he's not sure just what he's supposed to do. What he wants to do is to write his book, but this is going to prove difficult.
A cast of characters, strange and distracting enough to keep anyone from their work, enter his life. There are the two very idiosyncratic servants who come with the house (who use giant vegetables and cauliflower cheese as subtle weapons in their power struggles). There's the orphaned boy seeking shelter from menacing demonic creatures, the beautiful and crisply practical local girl who becomes Andrew's secretary (and predicts the future by reading the results of horse races), the young giant living in the garden, and the one-legged jockey whose magic mainly manifests itself in rose growing. And more.
Character after character arrives on stage, all fascinating, all very Diana Wynne Jones-ish....and yet, very little Plot happens. Lots of Mysterious Things, lots of beautiful details to make pictures in the reader's mind, but no clear story (other than that of the characters trying to figure out just what is going on). "Plot" does eventually emerge, but comes rather late, and almost as an after thought to Jones' focus on other things. For instance, even in the throes of the climactic action sequence, the fate of the random child dressed as a tube of toothpaste and the giant vegetable marrow flying through the air distract one (in an chuckle-out-loud way) from the fate that may or may not be about to overtake the main characters.
In short, this is a book more fun for its dreamlike creation of people and place, brilliantly three-dimensional and extremely diverting, rather than fun for its story qua story.
note on age: there is nothing content-wise that would make Enchanted Glass unsuitable for a middle-grade reader, and one of the central characters is a 12 year-old boy. But I think that the people that would most love this book aren't defined by age, but by what type of reader they are. So I will put both mg and YA in the labels, and if I had an adult label too I'd put that in.
note on release dates: Enchanted Glass is slated to come out in the US on April 6. I decided I couldn't wait that long, so I ordered from the UK, where it is already out, through The Book Depository (where you can order books from around the world and not pay shipping). I ended up paying a few dollars more than I would have if I'd waited, but it was worth it. It's out in Canada, too, btw.