Diana Wynne Jones, Day 20: Fire and Hemlock (#dwjmarch)

diana wynne jones month march
Today’s topic is on Fire and Hemlock! Here’s the summary, for those of you unfamiliar with it:

Polly has two sets of memories…

One is normal: school, home, friends. The other, stranger memories begin nine years ago, when she was ten and gate-crashed an odd funeral in the mansion near her grandmother’s house. Polly’s just beginning to recall the sometimes marvelous, sometimes frightening adventures she embarked on with Tom Lynn after that. And then she did something terrible, and everything changed.

But what did she do? Why can’t she remember? Polly must uncover the secret, or her true love — and perhaps Polly herself — will be lost. (from Goodreads)

Fire and Hemlock is another book I desperately need to reread! I’ve only read it once and though I think I liked it, I didn’t understand it completely. I got tripped up in one of the many perspective changes. Much like how Andrew suddenly remembers things from his childhood in Enchanted Glass, Polly spends a lot of time flashing back to her own childhood. Unlike Enchanted Glass, though, the flashbacks take over the narrative, which I don’t personally like much.

Those flashbacks/perspective changes also made it hard for me to enjoy the romance aspect. Tom’s older than Polly by maybe 10-15? years, which isn’t terrible, but when she’s a kid he seems ancient, maybe 20-30 years older. I kept that retained in my memory and was never able to shake it, even after she realized later (in the non-flashback parts) that he was actually much younger than she thought.

I think rereading Fire and Hemlock will help clear up those niggly bits, don’t you think? Unfortunately, this is the cover of my copy:

Fire and Hemlock

SUCH A TERRIBLE COVER. It is quite possibly the worst cover I’ve ever seen and I hate it and ugh ugh ugh.

Is that Tom? Is that Polly? Why does Tom look about 80 and WHY is Polly wearing those terrible clothes? Just: WHY?

7 thoughts on “Diana Wynne Jones, Day 20: Fire and Hemlock (#dwjmarch)”

  1. The old man is probably Morton Leroy, Seb’s father. With that malevolent stare the girl might not be Polly but Laurel; if so, I don’t know why the publishers didn’t go with Polly and Tom unless they wanted to suggest the evil at the house.

    It took me two reading, the second darting backwards and forwards and taking notes, to get a handle on Fire and Hemlock. See if you think I was successful: http://wp.me/s2oNj1-hemlock

  2. One of my friends in high school had the same problem getting over the Tom-Polly age gap, but it never bothered me. I think this was a case where reading the end helped me out — I always knew what the end game was, so I was prepared for it early on. And Polly’s right: to little kids, all adults seem old, old, old.

  3. I ended this book the first time feeling completely overwhelmed and thinking that it was okay but not wonderful. Then after the second time, I finally caught on to most of it. I think when I read it again, I’ll understand even more of it.
    And I think that has to be Polly on the cover and it is so, so terrible!

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