Fire and Hemlock
by Diana Wynne Jones
This is a strange, complex, emotionally rich novel of mystery, fantasy, and horror, with an off-kilter love story to boot.
It begins when Polly, at age 19, realizes that she has two different sets of memories for five of the last nine years. One set is ordinary, full of school and friend and family stuff. The other set is a weird adventure with a cellist named Thomas Lynn, with whom she shares a make-believe game of being a trainee hero and his assistant. Only certain rich, powerful, nasty people dog their steps, determined to keep them apart. And then, four years ago, the hidden memories stop, and Tom Lynn disappears from her life, as a result of a stupid, wrong thing that Polly did but can't remember.
Much of the book dwells on those five exciting, dangerous years of hidden memories, and how Polly's relationship with the older Tom develops from a man and a girl escaping together from a tiresome funeral, to a pair hounded by the watchful Mr. Leroy and his sullen son Seb, plagued by disaster, and amazed to see their make-believe stories coming true.
Meanwhile, the changes and risks of growing up swirl around Polly-- her broken home, her changing friendships and interests, and (what might be quite useful to a ravenous reader like you) the names of all the books that impact her life. But things come to such a pass that Polly makes a terrible choice, and her strange and wonderful friend Thomas Lynn is erased from her life and memories.
Only now, after four years of hum-drum, as Polly is about to go away to college, she digs back into her memories and recovers it all. At first it seems mad, and she has no idea what it might mean. But then it comes to her. And she has just enough time-- perhaps-- if she is strong enough-- to save the man she loves from becoming another victim in a nine-year cycle of evil, enslavement, and death.
With depth of characterization and a canvas full of down-to-earth details, Ms. Jones creates a marvelous growing-up novel that also brings a blend of ancient ballads, myths, and fairy tales to life. You can learn a lot from this book, and it keeps you guessing and turning pages right up to the end.
Recommended Age: 14+
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