At 19 years old, Polly suddenly realizes that she has two sets of memories. She explores back through the newly-uncovered memories from her tenth through fifteenth years, where she gatecrashed a bizarre funeral, made friends with a meek cellist, and created secret hero-lives for them both that nearly got them killed. Only after she’s explored all these memories does she realize that she will soon need to be a hero in real life, to save someone she didn’t even remember that she loved.
I was impressed with this book from the very first page. I’ve read a lot of Diana Wynne Jones since Howl’s Moving Castle back in January, and this is the first one I’ve read where the writing felt mature. Some of the books I’ve read, while very fun to read, have been a bit sloppy in technique. Because Jones is such a great storyteller, I didn’t mind that so much, but it was an interesting experience to suddenly come across polished, careful writing from her.
The plot drew me in immediately. I liked Polly and Tom, and the way their friendship grew despite the large age difference. I was intrigued by Laurel, the funeral, and the NOWHERE vases. There was a lot I didn’t understand, but the threads kept coming together into something that promised to be fantastic.
Then I got to the end, and it all sort of…fell apart. It’s not like the ending was bad, it just felt incomplete. As if I stopped reading several chapters before the story finished. The last few pages were so rushed and left tons of unanswered questions. I don’t mind ambiguity in a book, but this felt more than ambiguous. It felt unraveled. I don’t know. Maybe if I reread it, I’d understand it better? Maybe some of the threads would be easier to see on second read? I’m not willing to say I disliked the book, because I didn’t. I enjoyed it immensely, and never wanted to put it down. But in the end, I just wanted more. It left me unsatisfied.