Monday, August 2, 2010
Probably because I read the Chrestomanci stories when my children were younger, I had the impression that Diana Wynne Jones was a children's author, so when Jenny proposed Diana Wynne Jones week, I decided to read the only DWJ novel that I could find in the adult section of my public library, Deep Secret.
After six chapters (75 pages) of narration by a male character, Rupert, the narrative switches to a chapter from a female character, Maree, whose chapters then begin to alternate with Rupert's more frequently until you can tell they're going to fall in love, despite the way they seem to hate each other at first (it reminds me of Zoe's first reaction to Wash in the Firefly episode entitled Out of Gas: "he bothers me; I don't know what it is").
I enjoyed the way characters who didn't seem all that important to Rupert--who is a Magid, a sort of Magician/Benevolent Policeman for the universe--became vastly important in the plot, reinforcing the idea that despite his vast powers, there is a bigger and even more powerful planner behind his whole adventure. And I was greatly amused by the way Rupert's mentor, now disembodied, haunts a parking lot, with inexplicable strains of Scarlatti coming out of the invisible car to which he's confined. An incidental delight is the off-hand way a teenage boy sums up the things in which his mother has been deeply interested: "she kept wanting to tell me until I said it was all boring nonsense and went away." (If this doesn't delight you, my guess is that you've never been the mother of a fourteen-year old boy.)
The deep secrets of the title turn out to be hidden in an interesting way:
"Some of them are things you more or less know anyway. If I were to tell you some, you might laugh--I know I did--because a lot of the secrets are half there in well-known or childish things, like nursery rhymes or fairy stories. I kid you not! One of our jobs is to put those things around and make sure they're well enough known for people to put them together in the right way when the time comes. Or again...some of the secrets are only in parts. These are the dangerous secrets. I've got the memorized parts of at least seventy of them. If another Magid has need of my piece of a secret, he or she can come and ask me, and if the need is real enough, then I put my part together with his or hers. It acts as a check."
The pacing of the story is masterful; the secrets are revealed one by one in a very satisfying manner. I'm still not sure that that Diana Wynne Jones writes for adults--this book has a centaur on the cover, which may not have been her choice, but it does accurately illustrate some of the scenes from the novel.
Why even think about what kind of audience a novel is aimed at? It's something I think about with fantasy novels--is Fantasy by its very nature (a way to step outside yourself and see the world differently) a genre mostly for children and young adults--that is, for people whose views of the world are growing and changing at a very fast pace?