Someone in 6B is a witch. And, in the alternate reality described in Diana Wynne Jones's Witch Week, that's not at all a good thing to be. Jones plunks her readers directly into the life of Larwood House, a school in a present-day England that's a lot like the world we know, except for one major difference: witches are everywhere, and they are ruthlessly hunted by inquisitors. With witty, erudite writing, Jones tells of the adventures of the class of 6B as they set about to discover who among them is a witch. Clearly it's not the popular Simon or the perfect Theresa. Could it be fat Nan or sluggish Charles? Mysterious Nirupam or shifty-eyed Brian? By the climax of the book (which, by the way, involves saving the world), being a witch has become a badge of honor rather than a mark of shame. |
Jones skillfully and seamlessly switches from one point of view to another, creating a comic companion piece to Lord of the Flies as she shows with perfect understanding the way children torment each other--and save each other. She neatly interweaves the dramatic plot with knowing descriptions of school life, as when lumpen Nan warily observes the popular girls: "At lessons, she discovered that Theresa and her friends had started a new craze. That was a bad sign. They were always more than usually pleased with themselves at the start of a craze... The craze was white knitting, white and clean and fluffy, which you kept wrapped in a towel so that it would stay clean. The classroom filled with mutters of, 'Two purl, one plain, twist two....'" Witch Week is a hugely entertaining book that doesn't condescendingly beat children over the head with its humane message of acceptance.
Source: Claire Dederer, Amazon.com.
There are good witches and bad witches, but the law says that all witches must be burned at the stake. So when an anonymous note warns, "Someone in this class is a witch," the students in 6B are nervous -- especially the boy who's just discovered that he can cast spells and the girl who was named after the most famous witch of all.Witch Week features the debonair enchanter Chrestomanci, who also appears in Charmed Life, The Magicians of Caprona, and The Lives of Christopber Chant.Someone in the class is a witch. At least so the anonymous note says. Everyone is only too eager to prove it is someone else -- because in this society, witches are burned at the stake.