Saturday, December 17, 2005

Eight Days of Luke - Diana Wynne Jones

It's turned into something of a Norse year, between Neil Gaiman's American Gods,(1) Katherine Langrish's Troll Fell and Troll Mill, Nancy Farmer's The Sea of Trolls, and now Diana Wynne Jones' Eight Days of Luke, which I hadn't realised was a re-working of a Norse myth until part way through the book. What really baffled me, though, was the sense of déjà vu I had in reading this book, much as I had with her Archer's Goon. I felt I'd read, or possibly seen, parts of the story before (and not just because it's a re-working of a Norse myth), although I had never, that I could recall, read any of DWJ's books before this year. Very strange !

David Allder is an orphan and he live with his Uncle Bernard and Aunt Dot, Cousin Astrid and her husband Ronald, none of whom like him very much. The book opens with David making his way home from boarding school for the summer holiday and dreading his arrival. Usually he is sent on an educational camp or tour during the summer as his relatives don't want him at home, but this year nothing has been organised as Cousin Ronald mistook the date when the summer holiday would begin. David is not looking forward to a miserable two months with his relations, being expected to be grateful for their lack of kindness or interest in him as a person.(2) The day after his return home, David's relations tell him that they're going to send him to a mathetmatics tutor for the holdiay so that they can go away to Scarborough as planned. David is annoyed (he came third in his form for mathematics this year) and decides that he is going to curse his relations. He decides that he can't curse them in English as that would not be likely to work very well, so he works out a form of words that he thinks sound impressive and declaims them to the sky. To his astonishment a minor earthquake seems to take place and snakes start erupting from the ground. He is helped to beat them back by another boy who introduces himself as "Luke" and thanks David for freeing him from prison.

During the course of the next week David discovers that knowing Luke isn't necessarily going to lead to a peaceful life, and that not all his relations hate him absolutely. He also makes friends with Alan, a local boy, with whom he plays cricket, and who joins him in part of his quest to keep Luke from being returned to his prison. The book has a definite happy-ever-after feeling to its ending, but in a good way. I imagine this book would appeal to boys (especially cricket-loving ones !) as much as Dogsbody will appeal to girls. Not that boys would necessarily not enjoy Dogsbody, or girls Eight Days of Luke !

(1) - Interestingly, Neil Gaiman planned a book very like Eight Days of Luke, until he remembered Diana Wynne Jones had written the same story ! So he wrote American Gods instead.
(2) - Some of this is going to sound very familiar to readers of the adventures of a certain young wizard, but the orphan-mistreated-by-his/her-relations, has been with us for a long time: Cinderella anyone ?


slam2011 said...

I re-read this lately and it stood up well. But I remember how I enjoyed the slow realization during the first reading that this was based on Norse myths. Particularly liked the re-imagining of Valhalla.

Michele said...

Yes, I enjoyed the same sort of realisation...