For this month’s book review, we delve into a flight of fancy by the esteemed and unmatched Diana Wynne Jones.
The Book at a Glance:
- Title: Fire and Hemlock
- Author: Diana Wynne Jones
- POV: 3rd Limited Omniscient
- Genre: Fantasy
- Theme(s): Loyalty, Compassion, Redemption
- Setting: 1980s England
- Single Word Descriptor: Fanciful
Ten-year-old Polly Whittacker, imaginative and impulsive, trespasses into a manor house on Halloween, only to gatecrash a funeral by accident. When one of the attendees, Mr. Thomas Lynn, quietly extracts her from the bungled escapade, they strike up an odd friendship despite their age difference. For years, Mr. Lynn serves as a much-needed anchor in Polly’s tumultuous life, and she provides him an escape from worldly cares in return.
Only, at nineteen, Polly can’t remember any of it. And if she can’t unravel the mystery of her vanished memories, Thomas Lynn might vanish from the world itself.
I hoard the works of Diana Wynne Jones for those days (or weeks, or other long stretches) when I’m in the doldrums and need to retreat into a solid flight of fancy. So Fire and Hemlock has been sitting on my desk for months, waiting, promising, tempting. And I finally gave in.
I loved the camaraderie between Polly and Tom. Polly’s parents, in the midst of divorce and forming new relationships, forget her existence except when it’s convenient to them. She finds in Tom a kindred spirit able to counteract the neglect caused by her broken home. Their adventures, told in flashbacks as the grown-up Polly tries to piece together her missing past, range from the mundane to the fantastic, fueled by a thread of imagination-come-to-life.
My one wish for this story was a more complete resolution. Some loose ends remain, and I’d have preferred them nicely tied up instead. Regardless, the book was a delightful escape, and certainly a flight of fancy I’ll revisit again someday.