Wednesday, 2 June 2010

The Time of the Ghost by Diana Wynne Jones

star1 star1 star1 star1

Genre: Young Adult
Published: 1981
Pages: 189

Diana Wynne Jones is one of the best, respected, but vastly unknown fantasy authors out there. Despite this trying to find her in a bookshop is like wringing water from a stone. She is overshadowed by all the other fad-of-the-month books, which is such a shame as she’s a good, quality author.

I don’t know why. Maybe it is because she hasn’t really written many big series, apart from Chrestomanci and she can never be trusted to write them in chronological order either. Or maybe it’s because there’s no big love interests, or anything that is really ‘big’ about them.

The Time of the Ghost is one of her earlier books, written in 1981 for older readers.
Something happened, there was an accident – is the only thing the ghost knows when she finds herself bodiless and invisible. She doesn’t know what happened to her, but she has to find out who she is and communicate to one of her sisters what is happening to save one of their lives.

Diana Wynne Jones drew a lot of inspiration from her childhood to put in this book. If you want to read a short autobiography then follow this link. Her parents were basically negligent – ignoring their children even for the most basic of things, even food. It is a common feature in most of her books to have a distracted or negligent parents, but in this one it is almost autobiographical. Diana’s parents ran a place for city boys to come during the holidays and in the book the sisters’ parents ran a boys’ boarding school.

The Time of the Ghost is a spooky little story, quite short at under 200 pages but with a brilliant story packed in. I loved the characters, they felt like my own sisters by the end. It isn’t a spooky story despite being a ghost story, I would say it is more about sibling relationships even beyond the chasm of life and death. Diana is such a good author, I really did feel as if I was actually there, reading one of her books is like being transported.

My one criticism, which is a common one I think for Diana – but never shadows my enjoyment – is that she does tend to leave the details to the end and sometimes this happens all rather too quickly. What I do love about her though is that you can tell that there was a world before the book started and afterwards. It doesn’t feel like it merely exists between the front cover and the back. Her books usually start as if there was something that happened before, and ends at a point when you can still imagine things happening after. That way her stories just continue living forever and ever.

Diana writes with a natural ease of a born story-teller and has a magical ability to appeal to all ages. Many people seem to remain loyal fans well past their childhood, most people who I have met that love Diana Wynne Jones being adults themselves.

I myself came to her when I was nine years old, when I read Dogsbody. It is still my favourite book today, so many many years on in the future. Unfortunately, due to the general dearth of her books in the local library and bookshops, it wasn’t until much later that I got to read another one and then that one was actually the last in the series. (Another thing with her books is that for the most part you can read them in any order as she never writes direct sequels.)

So about five years ago when I was able, I went online and collected up all the books I could find. I still have some of her shorter books to get now – Puss in Boots and others – but for now I still have a good supply of unread books. I’m in no hurry to run out of them either.

Unfortunately, Diana is is not very well at the moment so I’m sending all my best wishes her way.


  1. "What I do love about her though is that you can tell that there was a world before the book started and afterwards."

    Good point. I have never thought about this before, but that is one of the marks of a good book. When I can and do still think about characters going on about their lives, the author has gotten something very right.

  2. +JMJ+

    I remember discovering Diana Wynne Jones in the middle of the Harry Potter craze and wondering why she was not better known, when there was clearly a market for the excellent stories she was writing.

    A few years later, when I was an English teacher, I read aloud the first few paragraphs of The Magicians of Caprona in one of my classes. I had my eyes half on the page and half on my students. When I got to the line about a spell being the right words said in just the right way, I saw some eyes totally light up . . . It's still one of the highlights of my teaching career--as well the reason I think Wynne-Jones is as much of a magician as her characters!

  3. I read one of her books as a child, The Tale of Time City and it is still one my favourites. I re-read it at least once a year as an adult still. I think she is a great, imaginative writer, which is wonderful for children. Its funny, there are time ghosts in Tale of Time City, so that makes me really want to read this one.

  4. She's a magnificent author, becky - doen't matter what age you are either.

  5. The news about her health made me tear up the other day :( I absolutely adore her and like you cannot figure out why she's not more widely known. I do agree that she has a bit of a tendency to wrap things up too fast, but there's so much else she gets right that it doesn't really matter.

  6. I know - I only found out the more recent news about her health after writing this review... I was in tears. Her books always make me feel so good.

  7. I've been seeing her books around bookstores. Maybe I'll give it a try.

  8. Been a while since I read Time of the Ghost--I don't own a copy and *talk* about hard to find--but I remember it being deeply spooky & creepy, thematically so rather than horrifically.

  9. This was my favorite book as a child. "Monigan's place...the back if beyond..."
    I never knew until I was an adult Diana had written loads of books. I have read this book to my now 16 year old when she was 8 and my 8 year old recently. I was 8 when I first read it. It never really occured to me that it had some very grown up themes until I read it this time...I also had no idea it was autobiographical in anyway!
    The link is not there though?



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