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Fire and Hemlock Hardcover – October, 1984


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 341 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books; 1st edition (October 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688039421
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688039424
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,272,431 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Complex . . . subtle . . . compelling reading.” -- ALA Booklist --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Diana Wynne Jones was raised in the village of Thaxted, in Essex, England. She has been a compulsive storyteller for as long as she can remember enjoying most ardently those tales dealing with witches, hobgoblins, and the like. Ms. Jones lives in Bristol, England, with her husband, a professor of English at Bristol University. They have three sons and two granddaughters. In Her Own Words...

"I decided to be a writer at the age of eight, but I did not receive any encouragement in this ambition until thirty years later. I think this ambition was fired-or perhaps exacerbated is a better word-by early marginal contacts with the Great, when we were evacuated to the English Lakes during the war. The house we were in had belonged to Ruskin's secretary and had also been the home of the children in the books of Arthur Ransome. One day, finding I had no paper to draw on, I stole from the attic a stack of exquisite flower-drawings, almost certainly by Ruskin himself, and proceeded to rub them out. I was punished for this. Soon after, we children offended Arthur Ransome by making a noise on the shore beside his houseboat. He complained. So likewise did Beatrix Potter, who lived nearby. It struck me then that the Great were remarkably touchy and unpleasant (even if, in Ruskin's case, it was posthumous), and I thought I would like to be the same, without the unpleasantness.

"I started writing children's books when we moved to a village in Essex where there were almost no books. The main activities there were hand-weaving, hand-making pottery, and singing madrigals, for none of which I had either taste or talent. So, in intervals between trying to haunt the church and sitting on roofs hoping to learn to fly, I wrote enormous epic adventure stories which I read to my sisters instead of the real books we did not have. This writing was stopped, though, when it was decided I must be coached to go to University. A local philosopher was engaged to teach me Greek and philosophy in exchange for a dollhouse (my family never did things normally), and I eventually got a place at Oxford.

"At this stage, despite attending lectures by J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, I did not expect to be writing fantasy. But that was what I started to write when I was married and had children of my own. It was what they liked best. But small children do not allow you the use of your brain. They used to jump on my feet to stop me thinking. And I had not realized how much I needed to teach myself about writing. I took years to learn, and it was not until my youngest child began school that I was able to produce a book which a publisher did not send straight back.

"As soon as my books began to be published, they started coming true. Fantastic things that I thought I had made up keep happening to me. The most spectacular was Drowned Ammet. The first time I went on a boat after writing that book, an island grew up out of the sea and stranded us. This sort of thing, combined with the fact that I have a travel jinx, means that my life is never dull."

Diana Wynne Jones is the author of many highly praised books for young readers, as well as three plays for children and a novel for adults. She lives in Bristol, England, with her husband, a professor of English at Bristol University. They have three sons. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


More About the Author

In a career spanning four decades, award-winning author Diana Wynne Jones wrote more than forty books of fantasy for young readers. Characterized by magic, multiple universes, witches and wizards--and a charismatic nine-lived enchanter--her books were filled with unlimited imagination, dazzling plots, and an effervescent sense of humor that earned her legendary status in the world of fantasy. From the very beginning, Diana Wynne Jones's books garnered literary accolades: her novel Dogsbody was a runner-up for the 1975 Carnegie Medal, and Charmed Life won the esteemed Guardian children's fiction prize in 1977. Since then, in addition to being translated into more than twenty languages, her books have earned a wide array of honors--including two Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honors--and appeared on countless best-of-the-year lists. Her work also found commercial success: in 1992 the BBC adapted her novel Archer's Goon into a six-part miniseries, and her best-selling Howl's Moving Castle was made into an animated film by Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki in 2004. The film was nominated for an Academy Award in 2006, and became one of the most financially successful Japanese films in history. The author herself has also been honored with many prestigious awards for the body of her work. She was given the British Fantasy Society's Karl Edward Wagner Award in 1999 for having made a significant impact on fantasy, received a D.Lit from Bristol University in 2006, and won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the World Fantasy Convention in 2007.

Born just outside London in 1934, Diana Wynne Jones had a childhood that was "very vivid and often very distressing"--one that became the fertile ground where her tremendous imagination took root. When the raids of World War II reached London in 1939, the five-year-old girl and her two younger sisters were torn from their suburban life and sent to Wales to live with their grandparents. This was to be the first of many migrations, one of which brought her family to Lane Head, a large manor in the author-populated Lake District and former residence of John Ruskin's secretary, W.G. Collingwood. This time marked an important moment in Diana Wynne Jones's life, where her writing ambitions were magnified by, in her own words, "early marginal contacts with the Great." She confesses to having "offending Arthur Ransome by making a noise on the shore beside his houseboat," erasing a stack of drawings by the late Ruskin himself in order to reuse the paper, and causing Beatrix Potter (who also lived nearby) to complain about her and her sister's behavior. "It struck me," Jones said, "that the Great were remarkably touchy and unpleasant, and I thought I would like to be the same, without the unpleasantness." Prompted by her penny-pinching father's refusal to buy the children any books, Diana Wynne Jones wrote her first novel at age twelve and entertained her sisters with readings of her stories. Those early stories--and much of her future work--were inspired by a limited but crucial foundation of classics: Malory's Morte D'Arthur, The Arabian Nights, and Epics and Romances of the Middle Ages. Fantasy was Jones's passion from the start, despite receiving little support from her often neglectful parents. This passion was fueled further during her tenure at St. Anne's College in Oxford, where lectures by J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis increased her fascination with myth and legend. She married Medievalist John Burrow in 1956; the couple have three sons and six grandchildren.

After a decade of rejections, Diana Wynne Jones's first novel, Changeover, was published in 1970. In 1973, she joined forces with her lifelong literary agent, Laura Cecil, and in the four decades to follow, Diana Wynne Jones wrote prodigiously, sometimes completing three titles in a single year. Along the way she gained a fiercely loyal following; many of her admirers became successful authors themselves, including Newbery Award winners Robin McKinley and Neil Gaiman, and Newbery Honor Book author Megan Whalen Turner. A conference dedicated solely to her work was held at the University of West England, Bristol, in 2009. Diana Wynne Jones continued to write during her battle with lung cancer, which ultimately took her life in March 2011. Her last book, Earwig and the Witch, will be published by Greenwillow Books in 2012.

Customer Reviews

Happily, this book was one of the best I have ever read.
Amazon Customer
IMO, it really is necessary to read about Cupid and Psyche to really understand what is happening at the end of Fire and Hemlock.
Sarah N. Baker
The idea was very creative, the situations were very real despite it being a fantasy.
Ishtar

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Ilana Teitelbaum on February 10, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I had to give this book five stars, even though it isn't perfect. The plot is confusing at times, with holes that could have been filled in if the author had done some tweaking. Another drawback is that some of the best characters--like the quartet--tend to be given short shrift. Yet even with these drawbacks, a fantasy of this calibre is not likely to come along often enough so as to be taken for granted. Hence the five stars.
As I mentioned above, there are plot holes, but this is a side effect of the chief beauty of this book: its mystery. The story is set in our world--1980's England, to be exact--and the fantasy elements are laid on in subtle nuances of depth and detail. A slight otherworldly quality--almost too subtle to be detected--mars an otherwise commonplace funeral. Everyday events take on the significance of revelations. The magic itself is of the type that more often than not creeps at the edges of things, pervading the story with an atmosphere that is by turns haunting, fascinating, and occasionally hilarious.
With a deft hand the author weaves the ballad of Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer together with the story a young girl, and soon enough the magic of legend and her mundane life intertwine. Polly is a "hero" in more than one sense: not only by virtue of her role as it is projected in the ballad, but also due to her struggles to cope with an increasingly unbearable living situation. It is not only the darkness of evil magic that Polly must eventually face, but also its everyday counterpart: the divorce and callous negligence of her parents.
The cast of characters and their relationships are wonderful, down to every last individual; it is their believability and richness that makes this book impossible to put down.
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Fisher TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 6, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Fire and Hemlock" is possibly Diana Wynne Jones's most complex and subtle novel, and it's certainly not for the younger readers who've enjoyed her most famous work, the "Chrestomanci" novels. It is most basically described as a retelling of the Tam Lin/Thomas the Rhymer ballads, set in 1980's England over a nine-year period. Needless to say, it is dense and complicated, filled with hidden meaning, metaphor and symbolism where two threads of life are wound together to make an intricate whole.

Told predominantly in flashback sequences, we begin when nineteen-year-old Polly Whittacker is packing to go to college when her memory begins to stir. Her recollections of a book and a picture on the wall are not as she remembers them, and only when she concentrates and really begins to think does she realise that she seems to have two sets of memories - one of a mundane school life, and one that is filled with the mysterious and supernatural: all centred around a man named Tom Lynn.

She begins to re-follow this thread of her life, beginning with her meeting with Tom Lynn when she accidentally joins a funeral at the grand Hunsdon House held by the strange Leroy family. Pursuing the strange friendship, Polly and Tom make up stories where they exist as superheroes named Tom Piper and Hero and meet many times to discuss this sense of reality they dub `Nowhere'. But something strange begins to happen - these stories of theirs have a way of becoming true, and it all seems to have something to do with Tom's sinister ex-wife Laurel and her designs for Tom and Polly.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"Fire and Hemlock" is one of the newly reprinted books by Diana Wynne-Jones, and definitely worth a read. This is one of those books that so easily could have turned into cheeze, or a mediocre modern-fantasy tale devoid of magic. Instead, virtually every word and event is permeated with subtlely fantastical elements.
The tale starts when nineteen-year-old Polly, looking at a "fire and hemlock" picture, suddenly remembers her old friend Thomas Lynn -- the problem is, how could she have forgotten him? And why doesn't anybody else remember him? Shifting back in time, we are shown how the preadolescent Polly wandered into a funeral, and met the quiet, mild-mannered Lynn there.
He remains a presence, through letters and occasional meetings, all throughout her teenage years. The two play a fantasy game through their letters -- but then Polly starts seeing it reflected in reality. To make things worse, Lynn's strangely sinister ex-wife seems to have a strange power over him. But what it is? Who is she? And how can Polly free Lynn before it's too late?
This is, in places, not an easy book to read; not everyone in it has a happy ending, and Polly's life is in some ways not a happy one. We see her seesawing between her paranoid mother, who believes that everyone is trying to keep secrets from her (almost to the point of mental illness); her father, who seems absorbed in his stepfamily; and her kindly grandmother who is one of the few stable points in her life. Jones never downplays the real pains of adolescence; there is no cheap "teen angst" here. Rather, we have Polly growing and maturing, recognizing the harsher parts of reality.
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