During the course of Diana Wynne Jones Week, hosted by Jenny's Books, I realized that I am not alone in finding many DWJ books more fun the second time through. Which is very strange--I can honestly say both, "I love DWJ," and also "I didn't like many of her books all that much the first time I read them."
A case in point is The Game (2007), which I just finished reading. It opens with young, orphaned Haley being sent off to Irelend after displeasing her grandmother. Suddenly she is thrown into a confusing throng of family, and when asked what she did to displease her grandmother, she answers" "...she said I was bringing the strands here and destroying all Grandad's work." At which point the first time reader might have reason to think "????????"
A flashback to Haley's childhood doesn't explain much, but it does introduce the Mythosphere--a celestial layer of story strands, containing every tale ever told. And it seems that Haley's family can all travel along these strands. The favorite game of her cousins, in fact, is Mythosphere scavenger hunt. So Haley is whirled through a tumbling panoply of story and myth, and it becomes clear that her family are rather, um, extraordinary. Only the malevolent, jealous power of her womanizing uncle keeps them bound on earth at all....
It's a beautiful wild romp of a story, that I didn't much care for the first time through because I Had No Clue what was happening. Nothing is ever explained. DWJ never once steps back from her story to hold the reader's hand in a reassuring authorial way. It's sort of like trying to identify wildflowers while running full tilt down a mountain--the story goes so fast, you can see the flowers are there, but you can't stop to appreciate them.
Until, that is, you read it again...and comprehension lends enchantment to the view. Or familiarity breeds content. Something like that.
Note on age: Publisher's Weekly, in a starred review, said 12 and up. School Library Journal said grades 5-8. I'm going to go with SLJ-- I don't think there is anything here, thematically or substantivly, "young adult." And I am wondering if reading a book like this comes more easily to the young; there was so much I didn't understand when I was a child, and I was so used to letting confusion wash right over me, that maybe it didn't bother me if I didn't have a clue what was happening in a story, as long as it was making pictures in my mind. And what ever her weaknesses, DWJ is brilliant at making pictures in the mind....
And I hope she gets the chance to make many more for us. As of May 15, she was about halfway through a new book, with the ideas in place for the next one...)
This concludes DWJ Week --thanks Jenny!-- but since it was so much fun, I have joined the DWJ discussion group. See you there?