Fire and Hemlock

Fire and Hemlock

4.2 20
by Diana Wynne Jones
     
 

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A fantastic tale by the legendary Diana Wynne Jones—with an introduction by Garth Nix.

Polly Whittacker has two sets of memories. In the first, things are boringly normal; in the second, her life is entangled with the mysterious, complicated cellist Thomas Lynn. One day, the second set of memories overpowers the first, and Polly knows something is…  See more details below

Overview

A fantastic tale by the legendary Diana Wynne Jones—with an introduction by Garth Nix.

Polly Whittacker has two sets of memories. In the first, things are boringly normal; in the second, her life is entangled with the mysterious, complicated cellist Thomas Lynn. One day, the second set of memories overpowers the first, and Polly knows something is very wrong. Someone has been trying to make her forget Tom - whose life, she realizes, is at supernatural risk. Fire and Hemlock is a fantasy filled with sorcery and intrigue, magic and mystery - and a most unusual and satisfying love story.

Widely considered to be one of Diana Wynne Jones's best novels, the Firebird edition of Fire and Hemlock features an introduction by the acclaimed Garth Nix - and an essay about the writing of the book by Jones herself.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Complex . . . subtle . . . compelling reading.”—ALA Booklist

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101566992
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
04/12/2012
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
511,043
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A dead sleep came over me
And from my horse I fell
-- Tam Lin

Polly sighed and laid her book face down on her bed. She rather thought she had read it after all, some time ago. Before she swung her feet across to get on with her packing, she looked up at the picture above the bed. She sighed again. There had been a time, some years back, when she had gazed at that picture and thought it marvelous. Dark figures had seemed to materialize out of its dark center -- strong, running dark figures -- always at least four of them, racing to beat out the flames in the foreground. There had been times when you could see the figures quite clearly. Other times, they had been shrouded in the rising smoke. There had even been a horse in it sometimes. Not now.

Here, now, she could see it was simply a large color photograph, three feet by two feet, taken at dusk, of some hay bales burning in a field. The fire must have been spreading, since there was smoke in the air, and more smoke enveloping the high hemlock plant in the front, but there were no people in it. The shapes she used to take for people were only too clearly dark clumps of the dark hedge behind the blaze. The only person in that field must have been the photographer. Polly had to admit that he had been both clever and lucky. It was a haunting picture. It was called Fire and Hemlock. She sighed again as she swung her feet to the floor. The penalty of being grown up was that you saw things like this photograph as they really were. And Granny would be in any minute to point out that Mr. Perks and Fiona were not going to wait while she did her packingtomorrow morning -- and Granny would have things to say about feet on the bedspread. Polly just wished she felt happier at the thought of another year of college.

Her hand knocked the book. Polly did not get up after all. And books put down on their faces, spoiling them, Granny would say. It's only a paperback, Granny. It was called Times out of Mind, editor L. Perry, and it was a collection of supernatural stories. Polly had been attracted to it a couple of years back, largely because the picture on the cover was not unlike the Fire and Hemlock photograph -- dusky smoke, with a dark blue umbrella-like plant against the smoke. And, now Polly remembered, she had read the stories through then, and none of them were much good. Yet -- here was an odd thing. She could have sworn the book had been called something different when she first bought it. And, surely, hadn't one of the stories actually been called "Fire and Hemlock" too?

Polly picked the book up, with her finger in it to keep the place in the story she was reading. "Two-timer," it was called, and it was about someone who went back in time to his own childhood and changed things, so that his life ran differently the second time. She remembered the ending now. The man finished by having two sets of memories, and the story wasn't worked out at all well. Polly did not worry when she lost her place in it as she leafed through looking for the one she thought had been called "Fire and Hemlock." Odd. It wasn't there. Had she dreamed it, then? She did often dream the most likely-seeming things. Odder still. Half the stories she thought she remembered reading in this book were not there -- and yet she did, very clearly, remember reading all the stories which seemed to be in the book now. For a moment she almost felt like the man in "Two-timer," with his double set of memories. What a madly detailed dream she must have had. Polly found her place in the story again, largely because the pages were spread apart there, and stopped in the act of putting the book face down on her rumpled bedspread.

Was it Granny who minded you putting books down like this? Granny didn't read much anyway.

"And why should I feel so worried about it?" Polly asked aloud. "And where's my other photo -- the one I stole?"

A frantic sense of loss came upon her, so strong that for a moment she could have cried. Why should she suddenly have memories that did not seem to correspond with the facts?

"Suppose they were once facts," Polly said to herself, with her hand still resting on the book. Ever since she was a small girl, she had liked supposing things. And the habit died hard, even at the age of nineteen. "Suppose" she said, "I really am like the man in the story, and something happened to change my past."

It was intended simply as a soothing daydream, to bury the strange, pointless worry that seemed to be growing in her. But suddenly, out of it leaped a white flash of conviction. It was just like the way those four -- or more -- figures used to leap into being behind the fire in that photograph. Polly glanced up at it, almost expecting to see them again. There were only men-shaped clumps of hedge. The flash of conviction had gone too. But it left Polly with a dreary, nagging suspicion in its place: that something had been different in the past, and if it had, it was because of something dreadful she had done herself.

But there seemed no way to discover what was different. Polly's past seemed a smooth string of normal, half-forgotten things: school and home, happiness and miseries, fun and friends, and, for some reason, a memory of eating toasted buns for tea, dripping butter. Apart from this odd memory about the book, there seemed no foothold for anything unusual.

Fire and Hemlock. Copyright © by Diana Jones. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Diana Wynne Jones was the multiple award-winning author of many fantasy novels for children, teenagers, and adults. Her book Howl's Moving Castle was made into an Academy Award-nominated major animated feature by Hayao Miyazaki. She received the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. Married to the medievalist J. A. Burrow, with whom she had three sons, she lived for many years in Bristol, the setting for many of her books. Diana Wynne Jones passed away in March 2011, after a long illness.

Garth Nix is the author of the Abhorsen Trilogy.

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