Fire and Hemlock

Fire and Hemlock

by Diana Wynne Jones


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Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780142420140
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 04/12/2012
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 265,506
Product dimensions: 5.58(w) x 8.08(h) x 1.31(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About 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.

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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Fire and Hemlock 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was really great untill the last page and a half. i didn't get the ending, although i think it was a happy one. maybe if i was older i would get it, but i'm 14 and did not understand the ending. i was rather disappointed because the rest of the book is so good.
dreneen on LibraryThing 16 hours ago
I love the atmosphere in this title--my favorite of Jones in many ways--but the rather lame ending ruins it. Not enough to remove it from my collection though!
magilpat on LibraryThing 16 hours ago
Thie multilayered work has many rewards for the thoughtful reader, especially on re-reading. It touches on folklore, the English class system, memory, family.
schinders on LibraryThing 7 days ago
probably my favorite dwj. i first read it at 12 and have re-read countless times since; i find something new each time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't believe that it took me more than 30 years to finally read DWJ. Highly recommend this book. Gorgeous and well-crafted storytelling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just read this whole book but I can't tell you anything about it. So confusing! Extremly disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Diana Wynne Jones writes marvelous fantasy books for children of all ages (including those in their 60s, like me), and I am sad that she has passed on because I will miss her genius. Read this at once!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another amazing Diana Wynne Jones book! We follow Polly from age 11 to 19 and her relationship with Tom Lynn. This is a coming-of-age, hero, and fantasy story all in one book. The ending will be confusing (they always are), but the included essay at the end really shows how much of a genius diana wynne jones was. And I absolutely love Garth Nix's introduction. Check out all her other books too - you won't be disappointed!!
AlmostRosey More than 1 year ago
This is a well written, engaging story. The premise intrigued me and the book delivered- the characters are well developed, the imagery is vivid, and the plot never strays into the formulaic. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book, it was one of my favorites by this author!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
That book was horrible. Half way through the only thing you know is that Polly likes old people way to much. It's boring and I don't remember 3/4 of it, even though I finished it yesterday. I love the author's other work.... but this? I've no idea how she managed to find something worse the non- fiction.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a bit of a disappointment. Dianna is one of the greates authors ever, but this wasen't as good as the rest. You'd think with the cool double-memory thing and saving her true love it would be, but, IT IS NOT. the ending was confusing. Where did the witchcraft come from?!? and, it, well, just wasen't any good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story about a teenage girl named Polly is a wonderful work of literature. The author captures the reader right into the story- expecially Polly's strange memories and past. This is a great story for people of all ages and not a book anyone should miss.
Guest More than 1 year ago
About a girl who's 19 and getting ready to go back to college. She suddenly has another set of memories starting from when she gate crashed a funeral at 10 years old. There she meets a cellist and becomes good friends with him.They start a game, write letters, send gifts, and meet each other sometimes. Now there is a boy and his father trying to keep them apart what happens then? Read to find out! I love this book so much I want to buy it now!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anyone looking for a book that has a little romance, a little mystery, a little fantasy and riddles will find this book exactly what they are looking for. A word of caution; DO NOT lend this book to anyone; you will never get it back. This is book is also great for those who like to read re-tellings of old Folk and Fairy Tales. This is especially true of anyone who is a fan of Robin McKinley, especially since this book has a somewhat lighter tone than her more recent work.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After Polly stumbles into the twisted half-life of Tom Lynn, her life is never quite normal again - until she makes a terrible mistake. It is only fixed with the use of some extremely warped logic that annoyed me until I figured it out! This is the kind of book that grows on you. I reccommend this book to anyone who has a long stretch of time to read, because you won't want to put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is unbelievable! I first read this book about ten years ago when I checked it out, at random, from the library. When I remembered its existence about eight years later, I found out it had been out of print since 1983 or something. I started working in a bookstore (B&N, actually) and found out that all of her books were either out of print, or close to it, including one of my favorites, 'A Tale of Time City.' With the budding popularity of the Harry Potter books, however, Jones' books have been making a comeback and here it is, the first of her books I've ever read, republished with a snazzy new cover! This is a great read. It's not as straight-forward as some of her other books, and actually, I'd say that it hovers on the edges of her books for adults, just because some of the concepts are a bit more complex and less explained than in her children's books. However, incorporating the legend/ballad of Tam Lin and the Faerie Queen, 'Fire and Hemlock' remains one of my favorites. Related Titles: 'A Tale of Time City' (of course), The Chrestomanci Quartet (previously available only individually, but now sold in a two volume set), 'The Year of the Griffin' (although it's really part of a series, the first being 'The Dark Lord of Derkholm,' which isn't quite as good but is sort of necessary). 'Deep Magic' is a GREAT one for a fan who reads adult level books, too. I've got tons of other non-Diana Wynne Jones books recommendations, so feel free to email me if you've run out of books to read, or are looking for books for your children. I love discussing books. =)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Diana Wynne Jones always writes remarkable books, but this one is a classic. Polly meets cellist Tom Lynn when she is nine and he is a young man in his twenties. Their relationship, at first, is that of a man and child who happen to share the same joy in pretending, but later they become close friends. In their pretending game, Polly is an apprentice hero and Tom is training her by mail. In real life, the truth is much more sinister. But Polly is a hero, and Tom is in need of her support. Can he trust himself to take the help she offers? Can she see past her teenaged infatuation to the real, fallible man beneath? Tow attractive characters, hemmed around with magic and malice. This is one of the best books I have ever read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beware if an older man gives you a promise ring and his family doesn't like you, especially when he tells you this for no apparent reason. It means he doesn't love you! Real love is simple, it just IS, you'll know, it's unconditional!!! Girls, stay strong YOU WILL get through this!!