The Game, by Diana Wynne Jones

**Alert: spoilers ahead!**

Dot writes: anyone who knows me will be aware that I’m a raving Diana Wynne Jones fan. (Appropriately, her husband, J. A. Burrow, is one of my favourite scholars of medieval literature.) I was therefore delighted yesterday when a parcel of books arrived including her latest, a novella called The Game. I gobbled it up in the course of the day by reading during Prawn’s feeds. (There are advantages to having a greedy baby!)

It’s a rollicking read and I enjoyed it very much. The central conceit, of a family who can access the ‘mythosphere’, the dimension in which characters and events from the world’s mythologies take place, reminded me initially of Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood novels; among Wynne Jones’s own books it had obvious affinities with the field of the Bannus in Hexwood. As the book goes on one can see points of contact with other Wynne Jones novels such as Eight Days of Luke and Fire and Hemlock. However, to be honest I don’t think this is one of her stronger works. She’s rather fond of scenes and sequences in which everyone rushes around madly, yelling at each other in a comical and endearing way, of crazy famillies, of sudden jack-knifes of plot and people who adruptly find themselves doing magic, and of a general rush and angularity that works brilliantly in her best books but feels disjointed here. I thought The Pinhoe Egg suffered from some of the same defects. One of her specialities is people turning out to be quite other than who you thought they were. Again, this is extraordinarily satisfying in (for example) Archer’s Goon, but in The Game I found the revelation disappointing. The idea that there is a mythosphere as well as – interwoven with – the physical universe is an exciting one and I thought it could open up ideas about how myth and reality intersect and about points of contact between different mythologies. Instead, the whole mad rushing family turn out to be Greek gods, so myth and reality collapse into each other and one mythology supersedes the others.

I do wonder whether she only thought up the end part way through (she has talked about her writing process, and she is someone who follows her stories where they want to go rather than planning everything in advance). Early in the book the heroine’s grandfather says something about how golden apples run through the myths of the world but never seem to harden into a single strand – implicitly, into a religious doctrine or orthodoxy. Golden apples recur later in the book but, though there’s a list of different apple stories in the appendix to the Harper Collins edition, in the story the apples are always the apples of the Hesperides. I felt a wonderful possibility had just not been followed up.

Anyhow, it was still great fun.

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One thought on “The Game, by Diana Wynne Jones

  1. Oooh a new Diana Wynne Jones book! Must order on Amazon for the hospital…

    I’m hooked on the Chrestomanci books and love the Tough Guide to Fantasyland…

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