If it isn’t obvious by now, I am a huge, huge Diana Wynne Jones fan. I mean, she brought us Howl. And Chrestomanci. So I was extremely happy to have been able to find myself a copy of her latest work, Enchanted Glass.
The story begins with Andrew, a thirty year old scholar with a doctorate (that causes everyone to mistake him for a university professor) who inherits his magician grandfather’s house and lands after his death, with the expectation that Andrew will watch over the ‘field-of-care’. As Andrew settles into his new home and becomes accustomed to the house’s two bossy, fussy servants (Mr Stock the gardener and Mrs Stock the housekeeper, both of no relation to each other), a mysterious boy pops up at the house one day in need for a place to stay. His name is Aidan, and he had run away from his foster family because he was being pursued by some shadowy Stalkers. Andrew decides to let him stay because he feels a strong connection with him. When Andrew and Aidan take a walk around the ‘field-of-care’ Andrew has inherited, they discover that Andrew’s neighbour Mr Brown is slowly trying to take over his lands!
I am extremely sad to say that this book kind of disappointed me. It did not seem as magical or humorous as her past works have been. Maybe I’ve come to expect too much amazing-ness from Jones, I don’t know. I feel kind of let down. While the characters are likeable enough, the story is none too engaging. In fact, it was confusing. “Field-of-care” was a term tossed around a lot without any explanation as to what it was (I am still on the assumption it’s a plot of land). The whole situation with “counterparts” or dopplegangers of characters was not explained; I didn’t know why there were dopplegangers of characters and what purpose they served. I didn’t understand where Shakespeares’ Midsummer’s Night’s Dream characters figured in this. King Oberon is the one hunting down Aidan and that is why he is constantly sending the Puck around to find Aidan but I just didn’t … understand. I was expecting some sort of parallel to the Shakespearean play perhaps, but it seems like they were chosen at random to cameo in this unrelated story or something.
As for the “enchanted glass” of the title, it seems to play a big and small part at the exact same time. It is often mentioned as mysterious glass that no one knows anything about throughout the story, and only at the very end does Andrew realize the bigger role the glass plays. Yet after that realization, it goes back to being rarely mentioned. The ending of the novel also felt unimportant and glanced over. I am not particularly fond of endings where it all ends with, “Oops, made a mistake. Guess all that was for nothing!”
It’s not a bad book, but if you’ve read previous works by Diana Wynne Jones, this one may be a let down. It certainly felt that way for me. She has a way of being mysterious in her writing and not plainly explaining everything, leaving it up to the reader to decipher the story themselves, which is actually normally okay and works great with her other books, but with this particular story, it just didn’t work out that way. The magical element in this story was minute and it was just altogether unimpressive. Her stories like Howl’s Moving Castle or The Lives of Christopher Chant remain strong in my memory after reading them; this one, I can see myself forgetting all about it in a few days.
Side note: While most sites ’round the web still classify this novel as a children’s book, my local library has this shelved in the Young Adults section. I imagine it’s because there’s an inappropriate word in there (“bitch”), which I was kind of surprised to see.