Book Review: 'The Homeward Bounders' by Diana Wynne Jones

Kristina Pino2 Comments
There's a book store at one of my nearby cities that keeps a bargain bin by the escalators. It's the only place I've found (so far) that has any books in English (*), so I always check it out to see what the selection is. Among them the last time I went was The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones. This is a case where I didn't buy it so much because of the cover or what's on the back, but because of the author. Ever since reading (and loving) Howl's Moving Castle, House of Many Ways, and Castle in the Air, I've always been curious enough to read more of Jones' work. So here I am.

Jamie has been living a normal life in the 1800s until one day, he gets curious about a walled-in garden and building - curious enough to climb in and see what was inside. He encounters them. Simply them. They, upon catching him, declare him a "discard" in their game and send him to another world. The only hope he's given to cling on to is that he can return to his life as it was if, and only if, he manages to make it back Home.

In the course of his travels, Jamie discovers many different kinds of worlds, and learns all kinds of languages. Eventually, he figures out that all the worlds in existence are all part of a game they play. And Homeward Bounders like Jamie and the comrades he meets along the way are the only ones that know about it.

The story is told in the perspective of the main character as he recites his story to some sort of machine that types everything out as he speaks. He talks about his experiences from start to (almost) finish, giving us full closure. The book does leave things open for spin-offs or continuations, but it can stand alone perfectly well, much like was the case with Howl's Moving Castle.

One of the things I liked about this book, and I don't mention this often, is that the dialogue was "seamless." What I mean here is the narrative didn't detract from the feel of being told a story in the first person perspective, and particularly in the voice of the main character. I only mention it now because I recently read Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, and I found the dialogue took me out of Bridget's head because it felt so out of place next to the rest of her diary entries. Her style was truncated and short-hand, omitting as many words as possible so long as the point got across. So the perfectly scripted recollections of dialogue always bothered me. This wasn't a problem with The Homeward Bounders, though. I was sucked in and never felt like someone else was interfering with Jamie's account.

The Homeward Bounders is a good read for all ages. The premise is a bit dark, but the story is primarily aimed at kids. There is plenty for adults to find interesting too, and I recommend it as a quick read to refresh yourself between things in your reading pile.

*Note: I currently reside in Japan, and the book store I'm talking about is in my prefecture's capital city.

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