Diana Wynne Jones 1934-2011

She died this morning (NZ time) after struggling with lung cancer for a couple of years. I knew she was ill and having palliative care but still hoped she’d pull through and live to write a book or two or three more. I’ve admired her work for more than 20 years and her death saddens me.

I missed her books when I was a kid because they went quietly out of print. But I stumbled on her in the Dunedin library when I was an overtaxed graduate student looking for something to read that wasn’t post-structuralist literary theory. I was in the ‘M’ section, failing to find the books by Robin McKinley that I wanted, and cast my eyes along the shelves for something else. And there was The Lives of Christopher Chant. I read it, was captivated by Wynne Jones’s wit, by the dizzying complexity of her plotting, and by the matter-of-fact way people get on with things even when faced with pretty horrible circumstances. I’ve been reading and rereading her ever since. She’s on my “must always own” list along with Jane Austen and P G Wodehouse.

If I had to chose my favorite of her books, I’d probably say Howl’s Moving Castle, but Archer’s Goon, Castle in the Air, A Tale of Time City, Charmed Life, and The Lives of Christopher Chant are right up there as well.

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