Through tinted specs, colourfully

pane

Diana Wynne Jones Enchanted Glass
HarperCollins Children’s Books 2010

As a boy, he had spent fascinated hours looking at the garden through each differently coloured pane. Depending, you got a rose pink sunset garden, hushed and windless; a stormy orange garden, where it was suddenly autumn; a tropical green garden, where there seemed likely to be parrots and monkeys any second. And so on. As an adult now, Andrew valued that glass even more. Magic apart, it was old old old. The glass had all sorts of internal wrinkles and trapped bubbles, and the long-dead maker had somehow managed to make the colours both intense and misty at once.

When Andrew’s grandfather Jocelyn Brandon Hope dies, Andrew Hope inherits Melstone House and land. However, all is not what it seems — Jocelyn Hope was in fact a magician and the surrounding land is deemed a ‘field of care’, meaning that Andrew has to ‘beat the bounds’ in order to retain its magical power. Andrew’s childhood fondness for Melstone House now becomes complicated by its infusion with magic, especially the strangely coloured glass on an inside door and a counterpart he discovers in the grounds. More confusion reigns with the presence of a stern housekeeper and a stubborn gardener and the arrival of a twelve-year-old orphan called Aidan Cain needing protection from stalkers. Then there is neighbour Mr Brown, who seems intent on trespassing on Andrew’s field of care. Luckily he has an ally in the gardener’s niece Stashe to counteract all the events conspiring against him.

Like many Diana Wynne Jones titles, half the fun of Enchanted Glass for adult readers comes not just in being pulled along by the storytelling but in attempting to read between the lines. A feature of this fantasy is the links with Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream — key fairy characters, namely Oberon, Titania and Puck, reappear here, and there is a temptation to go searching for other covert appearances: are Andrew and Stache, for example, equivalent to Theseus and Hippolyta?

There are in addition various themes, such as the country custom of Beating the Bounds and the nature of the set of two enchanted windows, that beg to be developed further than is here, which suggest a possible sequel was planned before the author’s untimely death. I do also wonder about those middle and last names of Andrew’s grandfather, as the author’s Clifton home was around the corner from a prominent Bristol landmark, Brandon Hill, and near a community arts centre in a converted chapel called the Hope Centre, which Jones must have known: how many other personal in-jokes must there be in this very English novel?

However, and this is also a mild criticism of some of Jones’ books, there is the feeling of a rushed ending and of unresolved issues which slightly mar one’s enjoyment of a tale well told, but she is so inventive that I would be ungenerous if I couldn’t forgive her this one flaw. Enchanted Glass is chockfull of her ideas, fizzing and popping away like indoor fireworks, and it is marvellous to view it all through the tinted spectacles of her imagination.

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2 thoughts on “Through tinted specs, colourfully

  1. This seems delightfully inventive.
    I wonder how valid is the apparant theory that attention wanes at the end of a book and that that the whole concluding part is to be rushed? I’m sure it is done intentionally by very many authors.
    If they are right, then my endings are in drastic need of revision.

    1. It’s certainly odd that some authors seem to suddenly lose interest at the end of an otherwise tautly plotted tale and leave the reader floundering. Is it their fault, the fault of the editor or a failing of the reader? Maybe it’s a fear of boring that results in a perfunctory conclusion, or a desire not to ape classic whodunits where it’s all tied up pat and tickety-boo.

      I’m sure you’re that kind of author…

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