If, perchance, you happen to be a person who has not read Diana Wynne Jones, do this: get to a bookstore, the library, your best friend’s (or worst enemy’s) bookshelf, grab a copy of The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Volumes I, II and III. If you’re pressed for time, you can skip volume two. The Chrestomanci blockbusters are volumes I and III, containing Charmed Life, The Lives of Christopher Chant, Conrad’s Fate and The Pinhoe Egg.
Christopher Chant’s story is told in The Lives of Christopher Chant, but he is featured in all six books. We first meet him as a supporting character in Charmed Life. From his very first appearance on the page, he is absolutely lovable. In flamboyant kind of way. He is described as a “tall and quite extraordinarily well-dressed man…He was clearly a new Town Councillor. Nobody but those kind of people wore trousers with such pearly stripes or coats of such beautiful velvet, or carried tall hats as shiny as their boots. The man’s hair was dark. It was smooth as his hat.” (Charmed Life, 25-26).
Chrestomanci, by the way, is Christopher Chant’s title–he’s the leading wizard of England–but throughout the books it’s used nearly interchangeably with his name. So that’s what I’m going to call him. Aside from his sartorial splendor, Chrestomanci also has a vague air about him that constantly makes people think that he’s forgotten about him. Listen to the way he introduces his wife:
Charming, right? Who wouldn’t want to be married to this guy. I think, in Charmed Life, the thing which wins me over to his side immediately (except, who can resist a guy who always appears vaguely surprised to see you) is that he doesn’t let Gwendolyn (aka the Evil Witch and Sister of Cat) get away with anything. And he fails to be impressed by her increasingly desperate schemes. The angrier she gets, the vaguer he gets. Which, of course, is just the right response for such a termagant.
Chrestomanci is also funny. If you know me at all, you know the funny gets me every time. A lot of this comes from his ridiculous dressing gowns (pink and red, at one point), but also from the sort of lazy, confused air he perpetually wears.
Diana Wynne Jones was English, so of course, Chrestomanci is as well. The first person that came to mind when I thought of Chrestomanci was Jeremy Northam, circa Gosford Park. The hair is right, but the clothes and expression aren’t. I doubt many actors would consent to have their picture taken so they might properly portray Chrestomanci. On the other hand, Diana Wynne Jones was such an amazing author that all the great ones are probably lining up.
If I still haven’t convinced you to read Diana Wynne Jones, just wait until I introduce you to the other Book Boyfriend she created (just for me): Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle. Next time.
Don’t forget to enter the giveaway contest for Tara Hudson’s Hereafter! Open until July 5.
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