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Time of the Ghost, The Hardcover – September 16, 1996

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Hardcover, September 16, 1996
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: GreenWilBk (September 16, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688145981
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688145989
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,343,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Published in Great Britain in 1981 and available here for the first time, this gripping novel serves up often giddily hilarious fantasy that nonetheless deals unflinchingly with some ugly issues. At least twice in the course of the multi-layered narrative, the heroine has not the faintest idea who she is?a powerful metaphor for the novel's underlying theme of alienation from self. The story begins with the as-yet-nameless heroine floating?literally?through a boys' boarding school and its outlying grounds, a setting she finds oddly familiar. With a little spectral sleuthing (easy enough to accomplish when you're invisible) the disembodied spirit concludes that she is Sally Medford, one of a quartet of eccentric sisters who live at the school and are grossly neglected by their overworked schoolmaster parents. As the plot continues on its intriguingly convoluted path, evidence of time-travel begins to emerge: the college-age Sally is in a hospital, gravely injured after her abusive boyfriend throws her from a speeding car. Some part of her has journeyed back seven years into the past, where?with the help of her sisters and their schoolboy friends?she must undo a rash bargain with a powerful and ancient goddess. Given the violent boyfriend and the girls' ill-tempered father (prone to referring to his daughters as "bitches"), this tale is less overtly lighthearted than such Wynne Jones works as Howl's Moving Castle and Charmed Life but it is just as profoundly satisfying. Ages 10-up.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 7-9-This convoluted novel, first published in Great Britain in 1981, is unlikely to find a wide audience despite the popularity of the author's later works. Although the basic premise is intriguing and the story's background and characters are potentially engaging, the fragmented plot and shifting time frame make it difficult to follow the action or to understand the story's abrupt resolution. In a nutshell, a ghost returns to the past and attempts to effect a change that will prevent her impending death and free her from an ancient evil. The fact that the ghost is unsure of her identity (although she knows she is one of the four Melford sisters) contributes to the confusion as does the discovery, halfway through the book, that the events described thus far have actually taken place in the past. The briefly sketched British boarding-school setting, sophisticated (and occasionally unfamiliar) vocabulary, and the sisters' cryptic communication styles provide further challenges to readers. Finally, those who persevere may be frustrated by the amount of action that is implied and by the anticlimactic ending. Ironically, despite the supernatural aspects of the story, it is the book's resemblance to real life that prevents it from being successful: it is too chaotic, confounding, ambiguous, and arbitrary to be a truly satisfying reading experience.
Lisa Dennis, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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

Not only that, but the plot was incredibly creepy, in a really awesome way.
I found that the story took a very long time to work up to the climax, and there was a very undeveloped conclusion, as though the author just wanted to end the book.
I've read many books by Diana Wynne Jones, and this is definitely my favourite.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jane Lebak on July 5, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have come to expect a consistently terrific story from Diana Wynne Jones, and this story is no exception. In it she sets a creepy mood and immediately jumps into the story, tossing the reader puzzle pieces so the reader can figure out what is going on even as the characters do (something she does incredibly well.) Not a scene is wasted. The story is tight and without the 200 pages of material which should have been edited out that you'll find in many fantasy novels nowadays. Although the reader may be confused at times, it's because the situation is confusing to everyone involved and not because it's poorly written, not at all.
My quibbles would be that the story is rather dark at times in theme and tone, and that the characters other than the narrator are difficult to like at first. The parents have no redeeming features, although it seems like she tries to give them some toward the end. It's not lighthearted at the end, and readers of some of Diana Wynne Jones' other titles may be startled by this. The ending is very satisfactory, but again, it's a bit dark.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a fantasy set in the modern world, or who likes to solve mysteries along with the characters. But I would also recommend not looking at the cover, as that hideous face kept me from actually reading the book for about six months.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By S.T. Neb on June 25, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book is a difficult read. It is not easy sailing, though the writing is superb. This book is unconventional to the extreme. There are two confusing points in the book, one of which is the ghost's identity (which sister is it?), and the other is that fact that the ghost is NOT a ghost of a dead person. But you can figure out the ghost's identity fairly quickly if you pick up several obvious clues that many seem to miss, and this book is one of my favorites.

I won't go into the plot--other's, such as the publishers, have done it already--save to say that it is not gory or freakshly disturbing. If you are zealosuly religions, then you may not like this book, as it does have a "dark, old, female something" (a goddess-like presence) and severe neglect from the parents regarding the four sister-protagonists. One of the sisters goes missing, and the parents doen't even notice after several days, even though the mother comes in to say good-night and the father throws a rage at them later, even going through all four names without noticing before leaving.

This book is more like a window into a at-once familiar and fantastical world than a science-fiction/fantasy novel, a world where things that most people go through in childhood (such as a play-sceance using scrabble-letters or a belief that there is a ghost in the house) do not collapse into disbelief with time but are confirmed in a subtle, definite way. THAT is the whole of the 'horror and occult' in this book.

The characters are exactly drawn.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Natalie on February 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
I didn't find the book confusing, it does make you dizzy but no more so than any of her books. I think the book is very very funny in many ways, from the bowl of blood with all the boys queueing up for 50p with nose bleeds etc. The girls' father is also an amusing factor, not unlike the ogre in "The Ogre Downstairs" without the humour, and the way he constantly forgets their names, "Sally, Fenella er, Ingrid." and has to speak at least three before he gets the right one is entertaining. The book does have the underlying menace that Wynne Jones is famous for, and Monaghan is a creepy force. The end of the book is also slightly daunting, and one feels sorry for the 'sacrifice' in some ways. I enjoyed the book, it is a change from some DWJ's usual stuff and that may surprise readers and leave them disatisfied if that is what they expect, but if you keep an open mind I think you'll enjoy it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Fisher TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
The title of this book - 'The Time of the Ghost' is a definite clue as to what themes to expect in this novel - 'time' and 'ghosts'. It begins with an unidentified 'ghost' who has an overwhelming feeling that a terrible accident has occured, though she cannot remember any details. As she travels through a boys boarding school, little bits and pieces of memory come back to her - she suspects she is one of four sisters - Imogen, Sally, Charlotte or Fenella, who through a game they called 'The Worship of Monigan', have brought to life a terrible goddess. The sisters begin to believe that they are being haunted and seek out the ghost's knowledge, while one of the school students Julian Addiman, has a secret adjenda with Monigan himself. The ghost continues to piece together her past, but all the time wondering - who is she? Where is she from? Why is she here? What should she do?
If you want the answers to the questions then don't expect to find them at the beginning/middle of the story - you'll have to hang in there till the end. Like all Wynne Jones's stories nothing is what it seems, not even the premise of the story - you may assume that the 'ghost' is a ghost, and that events run in chronological order, but don't be fooled. Reality and assumptions turn themselves upside and round-about on more than one occasion. Whether you like this book or not, you'll have to appreciate the cleverness and complexity of the story that takes a very unique imagination to design.
However, this story lacks any explanitory narrative, which deeply confuses the reader, and leaves them confused till the end of the story, or perhaps even until a second read of the book. It would have been so much simpler to have a few 'eye-of-god' paragraphs to just explain to the audience what is going on in a few situations.
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