Les Miserables: The Final Chapters

Yes, I’ve made it to the end of the readalong! I spent the entire year with Jean Valjean and co., from the battle of Waterloo to the sewers of Paris and beyond. I appreciated Victor Hugo’s vivid and poetic language, his wide-ranging imagination, and his sense of drama. I truly feel I’ve been living part of my life inside a book, and I’ll miss it now that the journey is over.

This is not a book for sober realists or prudent minimalists — it’s too full of coincidence and over-the-top emotion. But it contains much that is inwardly true, picturing the mysterious weaving of life and destiny in manifold, memorable pictures. Though I rolled my eyes a few times, especially at the absurdly starry-eyed love story, there were many more times that I found words to remember and repeat to myself.

I didn’t mind the digressions or the lengthy descriptions, which have often been edited out and abridged. Reading these at a slower pace helped me to experience them as a meaningful part of the whole narrative, not something to be skipped or rushed through to get to the real story. Waterloo was a bit of a slog, but I was surprised to find the famous barricade scenes were where my attention wandered most. I couldn’t keep all the doomed fighters straight, and all their death-and-glory histrionics seemed ridiculous and pointless, rather than noble and inspiring. This was where a modern sensibility got most in the way, for me anyway.

The story, as I’ve come to see it, is about the conflict between hardened, superficial morality (which is only another face of the crime that it opposes) and a real, living morality based on love and freedom. Jean Valjean’s life was transformed by the Bishop’s gift of love, which turned him from a killer to a giver of life, yet this transformation was never recognized by the crushing power of the state, nor even by his own family. In the very last few chapters the question is whether he can pass on this gift to the next generation before he dies. Will Marius and Cosette perceive him for who he really is? Will they be able to grow beyond the beautiful, entrancing, but limited circle of love that they experience only through each other?

I’m going to leave that question open — as Hugo does until almost the very end. I think it’s the question he means us to take away from the novel into our own lives.

I’d like to read this book again, though I think I’ll take less than a year to do it. The earlier chapters are quite dim to me now and it would be good to have the whole story arc better in my grasp. However, the experience of reading a chapter a day (more or less) was very interesting, and also something I’d like to try again.

Our host, Nick at One Catholic Life, is announcing the 2019 readalong. of four books whose chapters add up to 365: Don Quixote, The Count of Monte Cristo, Lilith, and The Old Curiosity Shop. (War and Peace is the only other book he knows of with just 365 chapters – I’d love to do that at some point, though not this year).

In 2019 I may join in for the second half of Don Quixote, which I need to finish. I’m interested in the others, too, but I think I need a year off from such a big commitment. What about you? Would you do a year-long read of one or more novels?


Les Miserables: The first three months

As I proceed through the Chapter-a-day Readalong of Les Miserables, I thought it might be good to check in every quarter or so rather than leaving it all till the end of the year (when I might have forgotten all about what happened in January).

These months took us through the first part, “Fantine,” which spends a long time setting up the main characters and conflict of the novel. First there is a thorough exposition of a character who plays a very brief role in the actual story, but who provides its moral compass: the Bishop of Digne, a saintly man whose goodness Hugo has the difficult task of making both interesting and fully human. To my mind, he succeeds brilliantly, painting a loving portrait from many sides of a truly compassionate soul, who never seeks to beat anyone down with his faith, but fills himself with its warmth so that he can give of its abundance to others. Hugo was criticized by some for creating such a positive image of a churchman, but the Bishop is only incidentally a man of the church; his religion is humanity, and thus a true Christianity.

There were many beautiful quotations in this section; here’s one of my favorites:

“What more could an old man need when he divided whatever spare time his life allowed, he who had so little spare time, between gardening of a day and contemplation of a night? Surely this small enclosure, with the sky as a ceiling, was enough to enable him to worship God by regarding his loveliest works and His most sublime works, one by one? A little garden to amble about in, and infinite space to dream in. At his feet, whatever could be grown and gathered; over his head, whatever could be studied and meditated upon; a few flowers on the ground and all the stars in the sky.”

Then we go to the seeming opposite, a recently released convict who seems completely hardened in his evil and will stop at nothing to get revenge for his perceived wrongs. This is of course Jean Valjean, the novel’s protagonist, who has a life-altering encounter with the Bishop and turns to a new path of helping others. But his past still pursues him in the form of Inspector Javert, who is so hardened in his righteousness that in him good turns to evil. He is the true opposite of the Bishop, rather than Valjean, who represents our human struggle between extremes. Brought together through the fate of the pathetic Fantine, who has been abandoned by her lover and fallen on hard times, the two come to a crisis in which Valjean’s hidden past comes to light and he has to flee again.

There the first part ends — and after this absorbing, dramatic and character-rich tale, we abruptly switch to an extended essay about the battle of Waterloo, the famous “digression” that Hugo completed at the very end of his work on the novel (just in time for part two to be published). I’m struggling with the descriptions of battlefields and military leaders and tactics, which make my eyes cross, though sometimes Hugo’s vision of this event as the turning point of the nineteenth century breaks through and I see something of its significance. Once we get back to the main story, which takes place 50 years later, I’ll be interested to see how Waterloo still continues to play a role.

Until this section, I had no problem reading my chapter a day, and was always eager to find out what happened next, to meet a new character, or to read some of Hugo’s evocative descriptions and rich meditations on human nature and society. Though I’m sorry I can’t read in the original French, I find the Julie Rose translation to be gorgeously written. I may try reading another translation at some point for comparison.

If you’re reading along, how’s it going? Or if you’ve read Les Miserables at some point in your life, what did you think? Any thoughts about different translations?

Reading New England: Mayflower Discussion Part II

It’s time for the second half of our discussion of the Reading New England readalong book, Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick. Thanks again to Katie of Doing Dewey for co-hosting this discussion with me — she came up with the following questions for Parts III and IV of the book, and you can read her answers over on her blog.

Whether you read along with us or not, I hope you enjoyed our discussion! Once more, the questions are listed below by themselves, and then repeated with my own answers. A linkup follows for your own posts, or please feel free to join the conversation in the comments.

  • Having finished the author’s more nuanced portrayal of the pilgrims’ story, do you think either the founding myths (“the time-honored tradition of how the Pilgrims came to symbolize all that is good about America and the now equally familiar modern tale of how the evil Europeans annihilated the innocent Native Americans”) is accurate?
  • Do you think the conflict between the European settlers and the Native Americans was inevitable?
  • In the conflict, do you think one side clearly had the moral high ground?
  • Was there anything that particularly surprised you in the second half of the book?
  • Overall, what did you think of the book?


Having finished the author’s more nuanced portrayal of the pilgrims’ story, do you think either the founding myths (“the time-honored tradition of how the Pilgrims came to symbolize all that is good about America and the now equally familiar modern tale of how the evil Europeans annihilated the innocent Native Americans”) is accurate?

As with most myths we create for ourselves, there’s some truth in both of them, but it limits our understanding to put things in such black and white terms. This book helped me to see how the Pilgrims were a flawed and fallible set of human beings, and how their relationship with the Native Americans involved phases of cooperation, communication, and mutual support, as well as theft and exploitation.

Do you think the conflict between the European settlers and the Native Americans was inevitable?

I think some kind of conflict was probably inevitable as the European population grew and they wanted to occupy more land, although it could have been delayed for quite a while by a more diplomatic handling of the situation. It’s hard to imagine another alternative — at the time intermarriage and mixing of the races would have been utterly unthinkable, so the only way the Natives could survive would either be to convert to Christianity and act as servants of the settlers, or leave for another territory. Which, as we know, would eventually be taken over by Europeans as well.

In the conflict, do you think one side clearly had the moral high ground?

King Philip – source

I could sympathize with Philip’s desperation as his people’s way of life was threatened, but his actions and those of his troops were often not very noble or well-judged — from impulsive decisions, botched alliances, and tactical errors, to running away when things got sticky. Lashing out against the Europeans must have seemed emotionally satisfying, but as it turned out it wasn’t in their best interests.

On the other hand, though the settlers didn’t consciously instigate the conflict, they should have been more aware of the way their actions were pushing Philip to retaliate. And once they got into the fighting they were pretty ruthless. The scene of a fort full of women and children being destroyed was particularly gruesome. It was also interesting to note that the Indians didn’t rape female captives, as was standard practice with European warfare. Although there seemed to be a few Pilgrims who saw the Indians as human beings and potential allies, most treated them in a peremptory and insensitive way.

Was there anything that particularly surprised you in the second half of the book?

I was surprised at how devastating the conflict was for the Native population of the region. As well as killing off a huge number, it also spurred the English to sell the survivors into slavery on the Caribbean sugar plantations (which was tantamount to death). It really backfired on them — and on the English as well, who now lacked the friendly Indian allies to protect them from hostile tribes. It was an event that had a major impact on our early history, yet we don’t seem to hear much about it.

Overall, what did you think of the book?

I found it very educational but sometimes a bit hard to slog through, particularly in the “War” section — reading about wars and battles is generally difficult for me as I tend to lose interest in the details of tactics and troop movements. Sometimes I had a hard time keeping track of who was who with the large cast of characters and many different Indian tribes.

However, I do recommend the book for anyone who wants to learn more about this period of American history, and especially how the Plymouth colony evolved after that first iconic year. It was also interesting for me to imagine early colonial life in the region close to where I now live, with many mentions of places I visit or drive through. I will look at them with new eyes now!

Have you read Mayflower? What did you think? Link up your posts at Doing Dewey, or join the discussion in the comments!

Reading New England readalong announcement

Reading New England Mayflower

Reading New England

As my year-long Reading New England challenge draws to a close, I’d like to finish with a book we can all read together. After mulling over the many unread books on my list, I decided on Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick, a nonfiction account of the first sixty years of the Plymouth colony, which ended with the bloody conflict known as King Philip’s War.

Reading New England Mayflower

I chose this title because I’ve never read Philbrick and wanted to sample some of this acclaimed New England writer’s work, and also because I was interested in learning more about a period of history that has been so endlessly replayed in our national consciousness — in school, it felt like we started history class over every year with the Pilgrims — without being truly understood. I’m particularly hoping that Philbrick will bring some new perspectives to the displacement of Native Americans, which tends to be glossed over in our American celebrations of liberty and thanksgiving. It should form an important complement to some other books I’ve read about the New England roots of slavery.

I’m happy to announce that this readalong will be in conjunction with the Nonfiction Book Club hosted each month by Katie of Doing Dewey. During December, we will be posting discussion questions that can be taken up in the comments or in your own posts.

Our discussion questions will be posted as follows:

Dec 11th – Part I and II Discussion Questions

Dec 22nd – Part III and IV Discussion Questions


Thanks so much to Katie for being willing to co-host with me! If you enjoy the readalong, do visit her blog each month for more wonderful nonfiction reading opportunities. During this month in particular, she’s coordinating Nonfiction November for even more celebration and sharing.

So get your copy ready and join us next month. I’m looking forward to some great discussion.

Witch Week Day Six: Something Wicked This Way Comes

SomethingWickedFor our Witch Week readalong this year, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, I wanted to jump start the discussion with some other bloggers, and I was so grateful that Chris of Calmgrove and Brian of Babbling Books agreed to join me. Their thoughts greatly enhanced my own enjoyment of the book, and I’m delighted to be able to share them with you.

What follows is an edited version of our nine pages of commentary — you can view the full discussion here if you want more!

If you’ve read the book, please join the conversation in the comments, or link up your own reviews on the Master Post.


What were your first impressions?

Lory: At first, I was afraid this would be one of those books where I was not sure what was going on. And I did not make an immediate connection to the boys, finding it a bit hard to get into what was evidently a “boy’s book.”

Chris: I started to read this once in the past but stalled after a few chapters. This time, I’m going with the flow rather than straining to get at the narrative. As with a lot of magic realism I find I have to forget a factual reflection of everyday things and accept any dreamlike images. This is also at times pure prose poetry, wonderful metaphors and language (the train comparisons for example are quite striking).

Brian: I continue to love the prose and the imagery. Though I am able to follow most of what is going on in many places, like Lory, some passages baffle me. The woman in the coffin is a good example of this.

As for relatability, this is a major aspect to this story for me. The first time I read this book I think that I was around the boys’ age. Their lives so reminded me of my own. I lived in a semi-rural area, spent much of my time outside mostly socializing with a single friend. I also was very much into books and could also be found at the library.

This is now my third reading. I am three years short of Charles Halloway’s age. Wow!

swtwc1What are Bradbury’s main concerns in this book? How does it reflect his own viewpoint?

Lory: As I got more into the story, I found that the fantastical images seemed to be playing with themes of time and decay and death. Adults who want to go back in time, children who grow up too fast. The intellectually driven wish to avoid death is what ends up creating everlasting death. “For whoever wants to save his life shall lose it.” Jim and Will, polar opposites who are also inseparable friends, are drawn into this struggle.

I do find this a very masculine book. I do not say this as a criticism, but the “lens” Bradbury looks through is very much a male point of view. The feminine is portrayed as mysterious, inaccessible, unknowable; female characters are seen from outside while male characters are seen from the inside.

That said, as I continued reading I saw how Will and Jim represent two sides of human nature, regardless of gender.

Chris: I absolutely agree, Lory, with your analysis of Bradbury’s portrayal of the feminine mystique, perhaps unsurprising for many males in an early 60s context.

Granted that this is a take on his boyhood experiences — as Bradbury’s 1999 afterword makes clear — perhaps it’s vain hoping for anything different? I think your ability to relate to the boys’ experiences, Brian, probably back this up; my suburban upbringing in the UK only slightly overlapped yours and the boys’, though I also had only one or two ‘friends’ and spent inordinate time in the local library.

Ray Bradbury (1975), photo by Alan Light, via Wikimedia Commons

Brian: I think that Lory’s analysis of the themes of life and death contained in this book are spot on. It is helping me wrap my head around some of the imagery and plot developments which still seem puzzling in parts.

Without a doubt this is a masculine book, as is apparent in the experiences of the boys but also in Charles Halloway’s experiences. As Chris points out, this was emblematic of many writers of that era, and it was also characteristic of science fiction writers for decades. With that, in my opinion, as Lory points out, there are universal themes within this work that apply to everyone.

Chris: The more I read the more I realised that this isn’t just about Bradbury having a retrospective about his childhood self but also about his present and future self. He was 42 when the novel was first published, and perhaps starting to feel his age (hence the nostalgic feel to the boys’ experiences) and anticipating what it might be like to be an ‘old’ man — though with Charles only in his fifties, I, in my late 60s, feel that he’s still a stripling!

In the middle of the book, Charles Halloway starts to play a more important role. How did this change the dynamic of the story?

Lory: I was glad that Will and his dad were finally talking to one another. I felt that this coming together of the generations, of two sides of the young/old split, could be what’s needed to counteract the evil forces.

I appreciate that Bradbury writes with deeper philosophical questions underlying the story, but without definitive answers, only suggestions, directions, evocative phrases that make us ask our own questions.

Brian: I agree with you Lory, the father and son appear to be coming together and Bradbury is examining all kinds of similarities and contrasts. It seems that one thing that they are doing is delving into some of the mysteries of life. On one level I think that is what all three of the main characters are doing in this book.

I would add as a side note: As an adolescent, or an adult, I could not but help but love a serious book filled with philosophical musing, that also includes a passage where a teenager uses his archery set to shoot down a balloon piloted by an evil witch.

swtwc2What were some of the themes and images that stood out most for you?

Chris: Let’s consider all those circular references — clock faces, air balloons, carousels, full moons — symbolic of time, eternity, no fixed starting or ending points, all possibly related back to what you, Lory, have already picked up on: “The intellectually driven wish to avoid death is what ends up creating everlasting death.” We can’t go back, but we fear what is to come and bewail our powerlessness to avoid it.

Lory: There are so many references to time and clocks in the book – it would be interesting to make a list. Books and libraries are another theme — books being one magnificent way to beat time.

Chris: I had great fun imagining the clockface of books Charles had drawn up, trying to work out what open books went where and in what relationship to each other. All the titles and subjects pick up on many of the themes and images that the novel is steeped in, and I couldn’t help wondering that one non-metropolitan town could have so many obscure — even occult – titles.

Lory: You are right, Chris, that is one interesting collection for a small town library in Illinois! It seems to be a sort of portal to the Library, the great repository of archetypal thoughts and images. A good example of how Bradbury mixes the mundane and fantastic in this book.

Brian: The entire library sounds magnificent! Definitely not typical of a small town.

It is also interesting how Charles has become the story’s philosopher. He seems to be the voice of Bradbury. I love his theories on the origins of good and evil.

swtwc3By the end of part two, we’ve reached a turning point. How would you describe the factor that gives Charles an edge against the evil forces?

Lory: Seeing the evil for what it is — trumpery that we give power through our own fear and self-doubt. Laughter restores perspective, helps us to stand outside a situation we were drowning in and see that we are more than that. Whatever we can smile at cannot really defeat us.

Chris: All those clichés — laughter is the best medicine, laughing in the face of death, laugh and the world laughs with you — epitomise one of the leitmotivs here: good humour, mirthfulness and optimism are the enemies of the forces that want to drag you down to despair and death.

Brian: I keep thinking how Ray Bradbury’s reverence for books and ideas, manifested in Fahrenheit 451, is also apparent in the library passages of this book. Not just in the collection and selection of books, but also in the dialog between Charles Halloway and Mr. Dark. Though Mr. Dark initially seems to triumph over the “ideas” contained in books, we see that it is ideas, and good humor, that are in the end, stronger.

something_wicked_this_way_comes_firstHow did the ending strike you? Did it bring the story to a satisfying conclusion?

Lory: There’s one of the most cinematic scenes of the book here, when the images disappear from the Illustrated Man and all of the tents are collapsing. It would make some wonderful visuals.

The ending seemed to me to express joy as the creative force in the world — which I found a refreshing conclusion after the scenes of suspense and horror. The joining of old and young at the end, trumping the chronological schemes of Mr. Dark, was also satisfying.

Brian: I agree, the ending was a great relief. Mr. Dark was so malicious, it was good to see him fall.

I liked Charles’s comment – “We got to watch out the rest of our lives. The fight’s just begun.” I cannot help wondering if Charles and the boys faced more perils in the future. I am generally against sequels to classic works so I think I am glad that Bradbury never wrote one. But I like to imagine.

Chris: The ending reminded me so much of how humour was used in Britain (and the States, no doubt) to lampoon the nightmare that was Hitler and the Nazi war machine. When you can sing songs and laugh at ridiculing cartoons during days that really are dark then you nurture hope and imagine a future that can be less bleak.

Of course the most obvious strand to the novel is Bradbury’s paean to the small town of his youth, with the library as the pagan temple that he worships at. As Lory points out, love and friendship are also the pillars that matter most where people are concerned. I’m so glad to have finally read this.

“Out in the world, not much happened. But here in the special night, a land bricked with paper and leather, anything might happen, always did … This a factory of spies from far countries. Here alien deserts slumbered.” —from Chapter 2, a description of the Library

Witch Week 2015: Readalong of The Bloody Chamber

This post is part of Witch Week, an annual celebration of fantasy books and authors. This year’s theme is New Tales from Old, focusing on fiction based in fairy tale, folklore, and myth. For more about Witch Week, see the Master Post.

Please don’t miss the chance to enter the giveaway for a gorgeous Folio Society edition of The Bloody Chamber, open through November 7.

© Igor Karash, 2012 - The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories
From the Folio Society edition of The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, © Igor Karash, 2012

Today, we’re discussing Angela Carter’s landmark 1979 collection of dark, sensuous variations on the fairy tale theme. If you’ve read the book, either now or at any time in the past, please share your thoughts in the comments. You can also post on Twitter using the hashtag #WitchWeekECBR.

My own first impression was of how vividly Angela Carter evokes the sensory world with her lush, baroque language. I loved her unusual turns of phrase, and her musical sense of sound and rhythm. Occasionally it could be a bit too much, but overall I enjoyed the word-painting. The stories are very simple in terms of character and plot, so this elaborate language forms an essential element of their structure.

Although various traditional tales are invoked as sources, they seemed to me to be all a variation on Beauty and the Beast. And there is beauty and beastliness within each of us, male and female, human and animal. The emphasis on sexuality can be wearying, ground-breaking though it must have been at the time. I felt like saying “Yes, but what else?” There’s more to human beings than genitalia and lust.

The stories have the weakness of most short stories in my experience: they don’t go on long enough to develop the themes or characters much. The images are powerful and rich, but they pass too soon and too simply.  I enjoyed the narrative voice in “The Bloody Chamber” and “The Tiger’s Bride” in particular, and would love to have seen these developed with more complexity into a novel.

I was struck by this quotation from “The Company of Wolves”: “There is a vast melancholy in the canticles of the wolves, melancholy infinite as the forest, endless as those long nights of winter and yet that ghastly sadness, that mourning for their own, irremediable appetites, can never move the heart for not one phrase in it hints at the possibility of redemption…” How do the stories play on these “irremediable appetites,” and is there any hint of redemption to be found in any of them? Can Beauty ever overcome the Beast? Or is there beauty within beastliness?

Have you read The Bloody Chamber? What do you think about how Angela Carter twists and transforms familiar tales? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

© Igor Karash, 2012 - The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories
From the Folio Society edition of The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, © Igor Karash, 2012


Witch Week Day Six: Readalong of Witch Week

Diana Wynne Jones readalong
UK paperback, Mammoth

We’ve arrived at the fifth of November, known as Guy Fawkes or Bonfire Night in the UK, and the last day of Witch Week according to the book of that title by Diana Wynne Jones — which, appropriately, has been our readalong selection for this event. This being the first time I’ve hosted anything like this, I’m curious to find out whether anybody else has actually been reading along! Did you read Witch Week for the first, or fifth, or twentieth time? What were your impressions, whether this is a new book for you, or an old friend? Did you have favorite scenes or characters, or were there perhaps aspects of the book that disturbed or puzzled you? If you were rereading, how has your experience of the book changed over time? Please comment below. . . and readers, be aware that spoilers are not prohibited from here on out.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read Witch Week, but at least one of them was to a rapt audience of fourth, fifth and sixth graders. I know that when I first read it I was much closer to my own school experience, which in many ways paralleled that of Nan Pilgrim in the book. Like her, I was pudgy, hopeless in gym, disdained and sometimes tortured by the popular kids, and given to describing things. Thus I sympathized with Nan even as I laughed at her predicaments, such as when she thought she was climbing the rope in gym class when actually she was just making hopeful motions with her eyes closed, or when she vividly described the horrible school food while sitting next to the principal. I felt her delight when she found that she did have a talent, even if it was for forbidden witchcraft, and her vindication when she was able to transform that talent and the whole world along with it, through the creative power of storytelling.

But there is more to the book than the parts that resonate with me personally, and when I re-read it this time the darker elements came more to the fore. Witch Week, which was originally published in 1982, created a magical dystopia before it was fashionable to do so, and I think that current writers in the genre could learn much from its construction. Its depiction of a world like our own, with one important difference — witchcraft is both common and punishable by death — is subtly horrific, forming a weighty counterpoint to the comic scenes. These play upon themes we all know from our school days, like useless journal-writing exercises and teachers who think their private affairs are invisible to their students. But these schoolkids are not just threatened with being sent to detention or even being menaced by bullies; they are in serious danger of losing their lives.

bonfire night fireworks
An oddly appropriate Guy Fawkes scene (Historical Society)

Witch Week is in many ways the “anti-Harry Potter,” as Emma Jane Falconer astutely describes it in her DWJ zine, and its portrayal of evil is far more nuanced and real than the cartoon villainy of Voldemort — perhaps coming too close to home for some readers. Maybe that’s why when I looked for some other reviews, I found many that called it unpleasant and depressing. This is partly due to the fact that Charles Morgan, the second main child character in the book, is in danger of losing not just his life but his very soul as he turns toward the darker side of magic. I think that readers who are merely repelled by him are missing the point, though. A society that generates fear and hatred, and suppresses the creative human spirit, will ultimately destroy itself. Charles is a victim of that society, and his ultimate self-transformation is as important as Nan’s, though less obvious — it may be that some readers miss it altogether, in the rush of the story’s conclusion.

For me, rereading Witch Week was a delight as usual. I remain impressed by Diana Wynne Jones’s ability to create a story with so many different layers, combining farce and tragedy in a way I believe to be quite rare. Plus I still adore Nan, and cheer for her as she finally gets to ride (awkwardly) on a splendidly eccentric broomstick. Her triumph enriches all of us.

(If I haven’t mentioned that DWJ’s well-known recurring character Chrestomanci comes into the story, perhaps it’s because I find him more peripheral than in the other novels in which he appears. He plays a decidedly supporting role, even though it’s essential to the plot. If this is your first Chrestomanci book and you are a bit baffled by him, do seek out the others. It will all make sense, I promise.)

But enough from me! What are your thoughts? Please share them below, and remember that you can also link up your own reviews at the master post. Plus, don’t neglect to enter the giveaway before midnight tonight for a chance to win the above-mentioned DWJ zine! Tomorrow, a summary and preview of next year.

Witch Week 2014: Preview and Master Post

Diana Wynne Jones blog event


…Witch Week, when there is so much magic around in the world that all sorts of peculiar things happen… — Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones

Welcome to Witch Week at the Emerald City Book Review, where for the first time I’m hosting what I hope will become an annual event celebrating our favorite fantasy books and authors. This year, we’re focusing on one of the best fantasy authors of all time, who is also the originator (as far as I know) of the term “Witch Week” — British writer Diana Wynne Jones. What will be happening?

Guest Posts: From October 31 through November 4, there will be a different guest blogger each day commenting on some favorite DWJ titles. You won’t want to miss any of these!

Readalong: On November 5, bring your thoughts about the book Witch Week to our readalong post, or just visit to see what other readers have to say.

author blog event Wikimedia
Diana Wynne Jones

Giveaway: From November 1 through 5, in sync with the Literary Blog Hop, enter a giveaway for a copy of artist Emma Jane Falconer’s unique DWJ zine, a $10 Powell’s gift certificate, and (US/Canada only) the new Tor edition of Deep Secret. You’ll get extra points for leaving a comment on any of the announcement posts, including this one!

Link up your own posts: Use the linky below, or just leave a comment or send me an email at withawhy99 [at] gmail [dot] com to let me know of any related posts you’ve done on your own blog at any time (does not have to be from this week). I’ll do a roundup on the final day of the week, November 6.

However you choose to participate, I hope you enjoy Witch Week! This is a new venture for me, so your comments and suggestions are much appreciated. Happy reading!

Witch Week starts in one week!

One week from today, I’ll be hosting Witch Week, a celebration of fantasy fiction and of one of my favorite authors, Diana Wynne Jones. If you haven’t already, please check out the announcement post and consider signing up. Then come back to ECBR on October 30 for a preview, giveaway details, and more before the fun really starts on Halloween.

The six books we’ll be focusing on during the week

I’m busy getting everything in place for next week, but in the meantime here are links to my own earlier posts about DWJ and just a few of her marvelous books:

And here are some of my favorite reviews and other musings from the lovely bloggers who will be contributing guest posts next week:

Are you joining us? What are you looking forward to during the week?