Saving Thomas Lynn

Fire and Hemlock, by Diana Wynne Jones – I found the pacing in this one rather odd, as it came across as rather slow up until the final part, at which point I wanted to finish it really quickly to see what was going on. The tale starts when a girl named Polly accidentally wanders into a funeral and meets the recently divorced cellist Thomas Lynn. Over the years, they become good friends, and she eventually develops a crush on him. There are some weird things about the man, though. For instance, his ex-wife is keeping an awfully close watch on him, and he won’t explain why. Also, the fanciful stories he makes up have a habit of coming true, but not always in the best way. In fact, this element of the story was more subtle than I generally expect from Jones. She had said she wanted to write a story where the realistic and magical elements are indistinguishable, and as such the magic isn’t as obvious. Much of the story simply deals with Polly growing up, her parents getting divorced, and friends coming in and out of her life. Not that this is bad, but I guess I was expecting more fantasy. The story becomes a little more fantastic when Polly is grappling with two different sets of memories, and wondering if she had just invented Mr. Lynn. As suggested by the cellist’s name, the story is largely based on the ballads of Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer, and many other works of literature are referenced as well. I’d say I might consider it one of Jones’s lesser works, but those are still pretty good. And it did make me think and have to go back and make sense of what came before in the light of new information, which are both generally good things.

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