AUNT MARIA by Diana Wynne Jones


Age Range: 12 & up
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With her usual facility, Jones plunges an ordinary family, in shock from the apparent death of their half-divorced Dad and newly entrapped by the needs of a decrepit great-aunt, into a weird mix of small-town pettiness, magic, and witchcraft, all overlaid with a wryly original look at the war between the sexes. At first, when they arrive to visit her, Aunt Maria seems blameless, but her plaintive disclaimers ("Don't bother to put napkins, dear. It's fun using kitchen cutlery") soon give way to direct demands without any diminution of the guilt felt by compliant Mum. Young Chris is odd man out from the beginning, but narrator Mig is horrified to find herself a favorite. It's soon evident that Aunt Maria is a sort of evil queen in Cranbury, with a dozen other women in her teatime court and spies behind every lace curtain; the town's other inhabitants are either "drones" or "zombies" (the men) or "clones" (children in a mysterious orphanage). Drawing on a bag of tricks that includes animal transformations, ghost-like emanations, and time travel, Jones builds to a denouement in which several mysteries are unraveled and a sort of anti-Pandora's Box is opened to allow people to assume their full, nonstereotypical potential. Setting the stage takes a bit long here, and the story is neither Jones's wittiest nor her most thought-provoking; still, the plot has that delightful intricacy her fans admire, and its multiplicity of details is remarkably imaginative. (Fiction. 12+)
Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 1991
ISBN: 0-688-10611-0
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Greenwillow
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1991


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