I don't want to say too much about the story and give away the secrets, but this one is definitely one of Diana Wynne Jones' better books. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants a well-written, exciting mystery with a dab of the paranormal and a touch of strange.
From back of the book: Polly has two sets of memories . . . One is normal: school, home, friends. The other, stranger memories begin nine years ago, when she was ten and gate-crashed an odd funeral in the mansion near her grandmother's house. Polly's just beginning to recall the sometimes marvelous, sometimes frightening adventures she embarked on with Tom Lynn after that. And then she did something terrible, and everything changed.
But what did she do? Why can't she remember? Polly must uncover the secret, or her true love--and perhaps Polly herself---will be lost.
At the age of seven, Polly accidentally wanders into a funeral and meets Thomas Lynn, a professional cellist who become intertwined in her life and emotions, both as the father figure that Polly, the child of a broken home, needs - and later - it seems - as the recipient of a teenage crush.
But, as a college student, Polly suddenly comes to the realization that she hasn't thought of Thomas in ages, although he was terribly important to her. And no one she talks to seems to remember him at all. Other things in her memory seem to be evidence of other discrepancies... is she going crazy? Or is something more sinister at work?
Remembering, she uncovers a bizarre network of plots and influence that all seems to center on "That House" where she saw the funeral, and the wealthy and strange family that inhabits it.
This is an ambitious and complicated book, and by far the darkest I've read by Jones, as she brings the Tam Lin legend into 1980's Britain. It's a YA book, but deals with difficult themes such as neglectful parents and relationships with both older men and pushy peers in a tasteful but emotionally unflinching way.
Although it's written in a very subtle way (nothing at all obviously supernatural or occult happens for nearly half the book), it's a tense, compelling read - hard to put down.
However, the end, where Polly finally uncovers the truth, and discovers what she must do, is very confusing - and, from reading other reviews, I'm not the only one to find it so.
We are told that Polly has figured out her course of action from reading about Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer, but we aren't told exactly *what* she read, so her strange, logically-backward approach is rather mysterious. The reader just kinda has to say, "Okay, I guess that made sense for some reason.... not sure why!"
A slightly weird novel, especially toward the end. I understand it's by a fantasy author, but even so there was an "off" feel throughout that I never got from LOTR, a constant undertone of surreal-ness. I didn't like that.
But Polly, Nina and Fiona are thoroughly likable, and even Seb has half a character. What really got me was those horrid -- faeries, or whatever they were. By the end of the novel I wanted to see Mr. Leroy flattened by a steamroller and Laurel impaled (and shaken about violently until dead) by an avenging unicorn. The real ending is considerably less satisfying, and it's not even clear to me if Tom is really free or ever will be. I just shrugged and turned it back in to the library... I kept trying other DWJ books in hopes of finding another comparable with Howl's Moving Castle, but I don't think I'll try any more. They're just a little too weird and dark without any compensating radiance at the end.
Classic DWJ. I like some bits better then others but overall a good read.
I gave this book 4 stars. The entire book was superb ... except for the ending, which, at first, I did not even understand. I guess it was too subtly crafted for me! After I did finally understand it, I found it to be a huge let down. Throughout the book there is this HUGE build up to the mystery surrounding Polly's past with Tom Lynn. So, I expected a pretty spectacular unveiling and denouement. Unfortunately, it wasn't like that at all. I thought the ending was just ho hum, and a bit too ambivalent for my tastes.
However, the ending is only a few pages long in this 420 page book. So, the 410 pages were absolutely superb, both in plot line and narration. I'd give the book 5 stars if it wasn't for the ending. I'd also recommend it to others - after all, endings are such subjective things. What I don't like, might be perfect for others. Diana Wynne Jones is still superb in her writing style and plots - I do love her books.
Polly has two sets of memories. One is normal: school, home, friends. The other, stranger memories begin nine years ago, whe she was ten and gate-crashed an odd funeral in the mansion near her grandmother's house. Polly's just beginning to recall the sometimes marvelous, sometimes frightening adventures she embarked on with Tom Lynn after that. And then she did something terrible, and everything changed.