by Diana Wynne Jones
Most people have only one set of memories. But things are a little different for Polly Whittacker. She has one set, normal, undistinguished in any way, and another set which her nineteen-year-old self struggles to retrieve. These hidden memories are all centered around one Thomas Lynn, a seemingly ordinary cellist in the British Philharmonic Orchestra. As she begins to delve into the true past, she remembers that they met when Polly gate-crashed a funeral. At first their friendship is simply a bright spot in Polly's life. But gradually strange things begin to happen and continue to happen.
The narrative structure of the book works very well, in my opinion. It would have been an easy one to mess up, but Diana Wynne Jones pulls it off (because she's awesome like that!). The fact that Polly's forgotten her own memories allows the whole story to unfold in the past while still moving the plot of the present forward.
Polly and Tom are both lovely characters--the kind that you just love from the beginning and never let go of. The minor characters are also part of the charm of this one. Tom's quartet are all magnificent and Granny is marvellous. Fiona and Nina, in their different ways, are also necessary to the whole book.
I'm trying to avoid spoilers, so I'll only say that the ending is one of those where no one seems to know exactly
what happened. That's all right. Somehow it seems to me to fit into the pattern of the book as a whole.
One of my favorite books by Diana Wynne Jones.
Book source: my school library
I thinking I’m heading for a crazy Tam Lin retelling read-through. Fire and Hemlock is one of my favorites (how can I choose, though?). Polly is a lovely character, as is Granny. And I caught a bit more about names this time through–read Laurel’s full list of names carefully. It’s quite enlightening. Is the end confusing? You bet! But it rewards careful reading and re-reading and is, I think, quite in keeping with the rest of the book. [Aug. 2011]