Book Rec Friday #1
Deep Secret - Diana Wynne Jones
Diana Wynne Jones was one of the secrets of my childhood. I would trawl my library to find any book I could by this genius author the rest of the world seemed to have forgotten about. I know now that DWJ fans are like freemasons - secretly everywhere and recognise each other through obscure references (story of fandom in general really…).
Most people will now her as the writer behind Howl’s Moving Castle - a heavily rewritten version forming the Studio Ghibli classic. The better informed might know the Chrestomanci series, or stand-alones like Fire and Hemlock.
But today I’m going to introduce you to my all time favourite DWJ novel; one of her oft neglected YA/adult crossover titles, the title of which you might have already guessed from the image above - Deep Secret.
The brilliance of this book lies in its ability to turn mundanity into something thrilling, engaging and poignant. As much for its sharp plot, witty characterisation and imaginative world building, I chose this book for my first rec on An Adventure with Tea and Ink because ultimately this is a book about us. It is a love song to fandom, conventions, the general epic bat-shittery that makes our lives as fans that bit better.
In her story of mistaken identity, complex scheming and a centaur being driven round in the back of a car, DWJ is clearly writing what she knows. The meat of the plot centres round a genre-writing convention in a fictional English town; for anyone who has ever attended a con or a meet up - or even just stayed up too late on tumblr and seen the terrors of nightblogging - will recognise the characters that people the world of Deep Secret. Characteristically wry and intelligent, DWJ weaves her gripping adventure story into the fabric of fan life. Into our passion, our extremes, our creativity - this is not a rosy portrait, it is honest and at times cringe-worthy, but it is above all loving.
Diana Wynne Jones passed away in 2011. Prolific writer of fantasy, keen participant at conventions, ground breaker, childhood-maker, student of Tolkien and Lewis at Oxford, inspiration and general all round BAMF. She was one of us. For all these things, and so much more besides - I salute her.
A summation of some of DWJ’s best — including Dogsbody and Fire and Hemock, of course!.
“She creates lovely, inventive worlds, spins plots that are so dizzyingly complex that they make your head spin – except that they’re not hard at all to follow.”
A blogger’s tribute to her top five DWJ books — some surprising choices!
“Hilarity, emotion, romance…this book has it all (which can pretty much be said about every book she’s ever written).”
An excellent overview of Diana’s “series” books (excluding Dalemark).
“Jones very rarely writes straight up sequels, follow-ups are more like tangents.”
Alrighty, enough of all this serious stuff for a while. Now it’s time to review some good ol’ fashioned fantasy.
Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones
Obligatory Summary: When the senior Magid* of Earth dies, his replacement, Rupert, is saddled with the double task of preventing the…
I discovered the worlds of Pratchett, Gaiman, and Wynne Jones at much the same time, after a lifetime of reading fantasy.
I read “Deep Secret” as an adult before reading any of Diana Wynne Jones’ other books. Obviously someone in our small-town library had liked her writing, as there were quite a few in the catalogue. I was mesmerized by the sense of the worlds, the multi-verses, inside each other, fanning out around each other in a multi-dimensional map which only a few could traverse. I loved the snarky snippiness of the characters, and the alternating blindness and vision of the characters. Many of the descriptions resonate with me to this day.
I have read through as many of her books as I could find, and pass them on to all the children in my life. The habit of looking for other worlds through windows and in elevators has never quite left me.