29 March 2011

14. Archer's Goon by Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones was my favourite author when I was a teenager. I have read almost everything she has written and reread and reread my favourites over and over when I was a child. Last week I was feeling nostalgic whilst browsing Amazon so looked for Archer's Goon, my favourite when I was younger. I discovered, and was outraged, that it is now out of print but I bought a second hand copy. It came late last week and I read it over the weekend and I loved it as much as I ever did. After I finished it I went online and discovered that Diana Wynne Jones had died on Thursday after a long battle with lung cancer.

It is always sad when a beloved author dies, particularly one you loved during your childhood but finding out about Diana Wynne Jones' death moments after I had finished reading my favourite book of hers, also one of my favourite books from my childhood, when I hadn't read anything by her for years, really affected me. After reading a beautiful tribute by her friend, Neil Gaiman (http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2011/03/being-alive.html) I was in tears.

As Gaiman puts it, "There was only one Diana Wynne Jones, and the world was a finer one for having her in it."

The books of Diana Wynne Jones are unique, witty, warm and wonderful. Her work was hugely influential on my childhood, but also of thousands of others. Another lovely memorial to her writing is on the Guardian blog: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2011/mar/29/diana-wynne-jones-chrestomanci
Archer's Goon is the story of Howard Sykes and his family who become embroiled with the seven megalomanic wizards who are running the unnamed town that they live in. The plot is truly unique and rather bizarre as the seven wizards, who each 'farm' an element of the town - from crime to schools to music, are trapped in the town and are all desperately trying to work out which sibling is responsible. The novel opens when Howard and his little sister Awful arrive home to find a Goon sitting in their kitchen. He has come from Archer to demand that Howards father, Quentin, write him 2000 words. It emerges that Quentin has been writing 2000 words for the past thirteen years and sending them to an anoymous person instead of paying taxes and somehow this month the words have gone astray. The wizards are convinced that the words are something to do with why they are stuck there.

The charaters in the story are remarkable; Howard and his family are funny, likeable and realistic. The seven wizards are fantastically created: there is Shine, the obese leather clad farmer of crime and Torquil the preening, egocentrical farmer of music, Hathaway who lives in the past and Venturus who lives in the future.

I can't recommend Archer's Goon highly enough, for teenagers particularly but adults as well. It is so sad that Diana Wynne Jones is no longer with us so we should enjoy and revel in the wonderful novels she has created. Read everything and anything that Diana Wynne Jones has written and read it as soon as possible. I am off to dig out my Chrestomanci novels.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sad to hear that she died. I loved her books. I haven't read Archer's Goon but I'll be on the lookout.