Not long after the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere, three quarters of the way into March — a month in fact featuring two patron saints of Celtic countries — and I’ve missed marking this period in any special way. But anyway, what’s a date but an arbitrary point in the calendar? Measure time in any way other than by the solar year and all our anniversaries, birthdays and feast days count for little.
Still I feel a little bit put out because I failed to celebrate one of my favourite authors. Maybe it’s because I’ve read almost all her books. Maybe it’s because I’ve been too busy celebrating the bicentenary of another author — Mary Shelley, ‘onlie begetter’ of Frankenstein — or was still stupefied after a revisit of Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea that I forgot to check in on Kristen’s We Be Reading blog where she hosts March Magics, a celebration of the worlds and works of Terry Pratchett and … Diana Wynne Jones.
Better late than never.
This year the theme for March Magics (or DWJ March as it was first called) is ‘Nothing but the Shorts’. No, this isn’t an invitation to a beach holiday; it’s intended to focus on the novellas and short stories that both authors produced in their lifetimes. Having only recently read Terry Pratchett’s A Hat Full of Sky last month I settled on Diana Wynne Jones’ novella (novelette?) ‘Everard’s Ride’ as a ‘short’ for this month.
But it didn’t work out that way. Because I then remembered that I’d finally got round to acquiring Diana’s A Sudden Wild Magic not long ago. Here was a heaven-sent excuse (as if one was needed) to get stuck into this purportedly ‘adult’ fantasy which I’ve seen described as somehow problematic. Was it really? Only a read would sort that out!
So here I am kind of killing three metaphorical birds with one tome, er, stone. Firstly, I’m celebrating March Magics by at least reading one Jones book, even if it’s not a ‘short’.
Secondly, Diana Wynne Jones was part-Welsh (as you can guess from the name) though she lived pretty much all her life in England — latterly in Bristol, my former home town. Thus I’m marking March as St David’s month, his feast day falling on the first of said month.
And thirdly, my local bookshop, Book·ish — which was awarded the title of Independent Bookshop in Wales and the Midlands last year and which this year was again shortlisted for Independent Bookshop of the Year in the British Book Awards (it didn’t go through, but was included in the i newspaper’s list of The 39 best independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland — runs a monthly reading challenge. This month, perhaps in solidarity with International Women’s Day which is held every March 8th, the theme is Read a book with a strong female lead.
A Sudden Wild Magic certainly has that, as I hope my imminent review will make abundantly clear! Patience, as I marshall my thoughts on this strange concoction of a novel…