Sunday, 1 August 2010

Review: Eight Days of Luke – Diana Wynne Jones

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    • Genre: Children’s Fantasy
    • Published: 1975
    • Pages: 203

I read this to take part in Jenny’s Books Diana Wynne Jones week from the first to the seventh of August. If you don’t know already, as I’m sure this author has cropped up a few times in earlier posts – she is one of my favourite authors. I won’t go on too much about how amazing I think she is and that I think everyone should just drop what you’re reading now and go and read Howl’s Moving Castle. I won’t do that. I’ll just let you know how I found this book.

It is the summer holidays and David Allard has to spend his summer with his awful relatives. He lives with Aunt Dot and Uncle Bernard and his Cousin Ronald and his wife Astrid. They’re all perfectly horrible, so he’s quite glum at the prospect of all those weeks being told to be grateful. Then Luke turns up and David’s summer holidays become a lot more fun – and extremely weird.

Typical of DWJ her books contain shoddy parenting and grumpy, sometimes evil gardeners. What more could you want? This was a fun, imaginative read that I had a great time reading. In typical Diana Wynne Jones fashion the fantasy and the magic just oozes out from around corners. She rarely spends much time explaining things because when you read one of her books you simply, just magically know and I can’t explain how.

I don’t want to say too much more about the book – it’s quite short and so I don’t want to ruin it for anyone. It probably isn’t my favourite of hers. One of her flaws is that she does tend to dash things out a little too quickly and this one didn’t seem to have the strength of characterisation that is so strong in the other books I have read. Luke felt a little generic and not as fleshed out as I’d have liked. It is however a good, fun, enjoyable read.

It loosely inspired Neil Gaiman’s American Gods in that he found out his fantastic idea had already been thought up by Diana Wynne Jones. I wonder if the Wallsey in this book is any relation to the town of Wall in Gaiman’s Stardust?

What I do love about her books is that I always feel that they never end and that they just carry on after the pages stop She always leaves you satisfied with the end, but she doesn’t let the characters or the world die, just because that part of the story is over. In that way, her stories are never ending. Diana Wynne Jones created a multi-dimensioned, multi-universed world in Chrestomanci – and in a way that is where all her books are based. In different worlds, different times, split by different histories but all inter-linked. Maybe that’s why she doesn’t need to spend a lot of time explaining the world, because if you read enough of her books, you’re already there.

If you are interested, you can also check out my Time of the Ghost review.


If you’d like to read more Diana Wynne Jones then I whole heartedly recommend Howl’s Moving Castle, Dogsbody and the Dalemark Quartet (starting with Cart and Cwidder), all of which are my favourite.


  1. I love this: "What I do love about her books is that I always feel that they never end and that they just carry on after the pages stop. She always leaves you satisfied with the end, but she doesn’t let the characters or the world die, just because that part of the story is over.". So well put! This is sadly one of the books I don't own and that seem to be out of print. I suspect I'll be hunting used DWJ books over the next few months.

  2. Hmm not out of print on the book depository:

    It is so sad that many of her books are - or will go out of print. I guess... I wonder why? Did readers of her books not pass them onto their children? But you hear so often grown people - men and women who are still reading her books, who 10 years later reviewed her book on Amazon because they enjoyed it so much as a kid.

  3. I like your blog, and I just gave you an award, visible HERE.

  4. Some of DWJ's books are definitely dashed out a bit too quickly. I felt the same about The Game. Still, anyone who can impress readers even in her poorer books is quite a writer!

    And what *is* the deal with the shoddy parenting? ;)

  5. The "shoddy parenting" is a theme in children's lit from the late Victorian era onwards--think of E Nesbit and Arthur Ransome all the way to Jeanne Birdsall (whose children only have one surviving parent). I like the late Victorian overtones in some of the DWJ books; I think they contribute to what Nymeth singles out (above) as the best part of your review--that feeling that the world goes on without you when you've closed the book.

  6. If you read her autobiography here: then her shoddy parents often seem to resemble her own negligent parents.

    The Time of the Ghost reflected a lot of her life... and in the Eight Days of Luke he was being sent off to a summer school like the one Diana's parents used to run.

    There is mention of a gardener in her autobiography though she doesn't mention him as mean or grumpy - just very religious. However I've noticed in several of her books that the gardener is grumpy. Wild Robert particularly, comes to mind

  7. Her parents really were awful. Now that I think of it, I should have done a post about bad parents in the DWJ books! That would have been fun! But then I'd have felt guilty for writing a blog post that is essentially based on how miserable her childhood was. :p

    You're so right about her characters and stories having a life beyond the page. I think I made that point in one of the blog posts I have scheduled for later this week, so it's nice to see my opinions borne out like this!

  8. Eight Days of Luke is one of my favorite books! I love the way the different gods show up, the way David has to adjust his thinking to accommodate them, and the bittersweetness of the end.

    Yes, absent or neglectful parents show up all the time in DWJ books. Hadn't caught the gardeners, though.

    Currently, I'm on a stained-glass hunt.

  9. I have a strong memory of when and where I read this book. Odd for me. (Which was at a very uncomfortable Steelcase desk, in a basement, completely enthralled.)



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