Review – Fire & Hemlock

Posted December 2, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Fire & Hemlock by Diana Wynne JonesFire & Hemlock, Diana Wynne Jones

This was the first adaptation of Tam Lin that I ever read, so it was sort of odd to come back to it now with various sung versions of the ballad rattling round my head. I remembered much of the story and the events — one thing that stuck with me in particular was Polly’s mortification when she realises (or at least thinks she does) that Tom knows about her crush on him and thinks she’s too much of a kid. Gah. Cringe.

It’s funny the way the story weaves slowly through Polly’s childhood, dropping clues, and then suddenly at the end Jones puts her foot down and zooms off. This is kind of a feature of her endings, which take careful reading sometimes — you can’t just let them wash over you, or you’ll be left asking “wait, what?”

It’s sort of aged badly for me, though: it feels completely gross the way Tom uses Polly, not just because of the grossness of using someone but because she’s so young (I don’t care if he’s not as old as she initially thinks; you can make an argument that he grooms her, with the gifts and the letters). Her grandmother is quite right to worry about it, and though she’s the solid and dependable centre of the book in many ways, it feels like she isn’t listened to enough there!

Despite that ick factor, I kind of want to reread it again sometime sooner, to see if the memories layer over each other better and show up more of the hints and clevernesses to make that ending work.

Rating: 3/5

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