Hexwood Farm is a bit like human memory; it doesn’t reveal its secrets in chronological order. Consequently, whenever Ann enters Hexwood, she cannot guarantee on always ending up in the same place or even the same time.
When Controller Borasus receives a strange letter from Earth he is both curious and alarmed. Someone has activated an ancient machine and is using it for most trivial purposes. Surely no one would dare to tamper with Reigner seals in this way? Yet the effects of such interference resonate throughout the universe, so he decides to go to Hexwood Farm to investigate…
On Hexwood Estate, Ann watches the mysterious comings and goings with interest. She knows something deadly is going on – or is Hexwood simply altering her too? (from Goodreads)
The first time I read Hexwood, I was all “wtf.”1 It’s one of those books that, if you don’t pay super close attention to the details, will throw you for a loop sooner or later. With time travel, space government conspiracies, and machines that mess with your perception of the world, romance, terror and robots called Yam, there’s a LOT to pay attention to.
I’m not an actual speed reader but I sometimes do skim through pages if I want to get quickly to a certain scene or whatever. I must have done that the first time I read Hexwood, because if I’d been paying proper attention I think I would have understood it better. Or maybe it just takes more than one read-through to pick up all the little details! Who knows– I think Hexwood is probably Diana Wynne Jones’ trickiest book, not least because she refuses to spell things out in big infodumps.2
DWJ was always good with that sort of thing, though. I don’t think she ever talked down to her readers, whether they were adults or kids. She always expected you to be able to keep up with her, and while that can be annoying if you’re a skimmer like me, it’s also extremely kind of her.3 Any author who thinks her readers are brilliant deserves praise in return, I think!
That said, Hexwood is SO. WEIRD. Most of the weirdness comes from having to untangle what’s going on– time travel is always tricky, especially when you don’t know if it’s real or not– so once you get through that it turns into a pretty standard DWJ story. It almost reminds me of Dogsbody, only slightly less terrible in plot point. Bad stuff happens, bad stuff HAS happened, but the focus is on what happens AFTER the bad stuff. Yay!
Now that I’ve reread Hexwood, I can’t WAIT to reread Fire and Hemlock (one of the other DWJ books I didn’t much understand).4 Just goes to show that rereading is a FABULOUS thing to do and more people should do it!5
If you’ve read Hexwood before and didn’t get it, maybe give it another go (only if you really want to, of course). If you’ve never read Hexwood, DON’T go into it expecting to be uber confused. Go into it ready and willing to pay close attention, instead! Think of it like a challenge from Diana Wynne Jones to you, the reader. Do you accept?
reRead: March 2, 2013
- I rated it 4 birds at the time, but since then it’s slipped down the bird scale ’til I remembered it more like a 2. This has increased the “wtf” in my mind. ↩
- The final act, for instance, was full of big reveals and “this is who this person REALLY is” stuff. If you’d forgotten a piece of info from the third chapter, for example, you may be just a bit confused. ↩
- I also really HATE when authors restate something I’d already figured out, like they’re sticking a big neon sign in front of it. “HERE IS THE MURDERER” isn’t enough, it’s also “AND HE WAS THE ONE WHO KILLED THAT LADY IN THE FIRST CHAPTER IN CASE YOU DIDN’T GET THAT.” Annoying! ↩
- Should I read an actual Tam Lin story first, though? I don’t know if it’d help me get through that last third of F&H or not. ↩
- Jenny backs me up on that, don’t you, Jenny? ↩