cover image The Time of the Ghost

The Time of the Ghost

Diana Wynne Jones. Greenwillow Books, $15 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-688-14598-9

Published in Great Britain in 1981 and available here for the first time, this gripping novel serves up often giddily hilarious fantasy that nonetheless deals unflinchingly with some ugly issues. At least twice in the course of the multi-layered narrative, the heroine has not the faintest idea who she is--a powerful metaphor for the novel's underlying theme of alienation from self. The story begins with the as-yet-nameless heroine floating--literally--through a boys' boarding school and its outlying grounds, a setting she finds oddly familiar. With a little spectral sleuthing (easy enough to accomplish when you're invisible) the disembodied spirit concludes that she is Sally Medford, one of a quartet of eccentric sisters who live at the school and are grossly neglected by their overworked schoolmaster parents. As the plot continues on its intriguingly convoluted path, evidence of time-travel begins to emerge: the college-age Sally is in a hospital, gravely injured after her abusive boyfriend throws her from a speeding car. Some part of her has journeyed back seven years into the past, where--with the help of her sisters and their schoolboy friends--she must undo a rash bargain with a powerful and ancient goddess. Given the violent boyfriend and the girls' ill-tempered father (prone to referring to his daughters as ""bitches""), this tale is less overtly lighthearted than such Wynne Jones works as Howl's Moving Castle and Charmed Life but it is just as profoundly satisfying. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)