A young adult fantasy novel by Diana Wynne Jones.

I usually quite like Diana Wynne Jones' books, but this one gets low ratings. The first part of the book is a little boring, being the story of a ghost that appears in the middle of a bickering and dysfunctional family. The ghost has no memory, but it becomes apparent that she is one of the four daughters of this family, and has had an accident of some sort. She has no memory of what happened (or of anything, for that matter). The first half of the book consists mainly of the ghost watching her family having a lot of arguments, and trying, with little success, to communicate with them.

Fortunately the family is eccentric enough to be interesting, and in addition much foreshadowing is lain down and important characters are introduced. It's not exactly boring, but it certainly didn't grab my imagination. The first half of the book is okay, but not great.

Usually I try to avoid spoilers as much as possible, but since most of what makes the book worth reading happens in the second half, after a dramatic revelation, I will be doing some spoiling in the next two paragraphs. If you skip the spoilers, the important point is that the book gets much better.

You have been warned; spoilers follow!

In chapter 8, after over a hundred pages of mild haunting and petty bickering, the 'ghost' wakes up in the hospital, seven years later. She is still missing large portions of her memory, but it becomes clear that she is not the sister that she thought she was, and that she (and perhaps others?) had been somehow promised to an evil ancient goddess. The critical events happened seven years ago, during the time that she was revisiting as a ghost, and the only way to find out what happened, and to prevent the goddess from taking possession of her, is to travel back in time in the form of a ghost and hunt for more clues.

Now that we know where the ghost comes from, and the ghost knows its mission, the story picks up speed. Clues lain down earlier in the story become interesting, and the ghost spends more time trying to figure out what's going on and less time eavesdropping on her sisters. She returns regularly to the hospital room in the future, and more clues are found there. Things happen! Mysteries are solved! Book is good!

A-a-and.... End spoilers!

I'm not a big fan of ghost stories, but I feel pretty confident that even if I were, I'd find the first half of this book a bit boring. If you're a fan of Jones, of course you will read it; if you're not a fan, don't bother (a least not until you've read some of her better books and become a fan). If you find yourself reading this book, don't give up! The second half is really quite good.

This is one of Jones' books that is more firmly in the young adult section rather than the children's (Fire and Hemlock rather than Witch Week), and isn't as likely to appeal to younger readers. Despite it being about ghosts and evil spirits, it is not a horror story. And unlike many of Diana Wynne Jones' books, it is not a comic fantasy. It's just a fantasy/ghost story.

The Time of the Ghost was originally published in 1981, both by Macmillan Children's Books in the UK and by Greenwillow books in the US. Newer editions come out every so often, but it has apparently not been swept up in the recent republishing of Jones' works, which seems to be focusing mostly on the younger children's books, especially the Chrestomanci books.

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