Hey! I asked about Diane Wynne Jones a while back, have you read Deep Secrets? I've never come across a fellow Jones enthusiast before :)
NICK AND MAREE MALLORY MY DARLING DUCKLINGS (also: HELLO FELLOW JONES ENTHUSIAST)
ok ok so let me tell you, sweet world, about maree mallory, protagonist of deep secret. if you haven’t met her, i recommend fixing that.
maree is a depressed, broke, cranky twenty-something vet student who’s living with her truly awful aunt, her truly boring uncle, and her delightful menace of a young cousin, nick. (NICK MY DARLING). among other troubles: her ex-boyfriend moved another girl into their shared lease over maree’s head; her dad is dying of cancer; and her aunt’s a fiend.
‘inky,’ you say, 'this does not sound like fun.’ WELL YOU ARE INCORRECT. maree mallory is a delight. maree is a hero and a saint and a witch and also a twenty-something person with a lot of shit on her plate. and maree dealswith all of this with wit, grumpy cynicism, a who-gives-a-shit attitude, and a deeply warm affection for things like weird alien ducklings and her cousin nick.
her life is hard, mundane, and keeps throwing things at her and she is just stubbornly, levelly carrying through. she’s not an object lesson or on a pedestal or the moral of the fable; she’s a young woman, and that’s all. she’s tired, this is her life, and she’s got to live it.
about half the story is written from her sarcastic, tired, determined point of view, and it’s gold.
pause: i need to tell you about nick mallory though. nick, maree’s cousin, is one of the other things that makes this book for me, for a few reasons–
a. he’s awful and selfish and fourteen and i adore him.
b. his behaviors are particularly amusing in the light that there are two main POV protagonists, one of whom is good at reading nick and one of whom isn’t:
you’ll get rupert (POV protagonist #2) watching a scene going 'oh poor nick, maree has bullied him into this embarrassing behavior, look how uncomfortable he is.’ –then you’ll read the same scene with maree’s pov, in which she and nick are like 'LET’S DO THIS THING’ and then when they’re caught she goes 'omg here goes nick imbuing his every pore with oh woe is me, i’m so put upon and uncomfortable. NICK YOU SMALL ADORABLE ASS i love you anyway, you jerkface’
c. nick and maree’s relationship though. they are in many ways the only two who get each other in this novel, even though they don’t quite either. there’s a palpable fondness to them. he thinks she’s brilliant; that maree being in his life is inherently something that makes it (and him) better–broader and brighter and deeper. she makes things feel worthwhile and possible when people are trying to tell him to grow up. she lets him be.
and the way maree deals with him, this brilliant, ambitious, sneaky kid. again–there’s just this palpable fondness. she takes care of him without letting him step on her. she treats him like an adult and a sentient being, but doesn’t forget he’s a kid.
d. nick mallory comes from a household that is more unhealthy and more complicated than it seems, and watching the book spin that out is… illuminating.
it’s very clear the ways in which the aunt (nick’s mom) is awful to maree–she’s verbally insulting, mean, and clearly jealous of maree’s friendship with nick. but nick just seems like a spoiled brat– and he is a spoiled brat– but nick’s also clearly negatively effected by his mother in ways that go beyond 'spoiled.’ he’s not dudley dursley. nick is his mother’s favorite person in the world, and he is harmed by that and by her. it’s just quieter than it is with maree.
nick is spoiled and selfish and manipulative, and some of that is his personality, and some of that is because he can get away with it, but these are also his coping mechanisms. and reading that–that complexity, that he is all these things at once: he is selfish and loving and forgetful and ambitious and obedient and subversive. and he is fourteen and he thinks his big cousin maree is a source of magic in the world. and he grows up as we go, but never really stops being that selfish kid, exactly, because he is one. and i just love this book.
err, so, yes i have in fact read deep secret. maree is a cantakerous delight, nick is a brat, rupert venables is a prat, and i love everything.
for those of you who haven’t yet had the exquisite pleasure of reading it, deep secret follows diana wynne jones’s general premise of:
1. here is a world! it may or may not be earth. but there are lots of worlds! all a little sideways from each other, and some are more magic than others, and some of them may look like earth, and quite likely (but not always) the part we will hang out in will specifically look like wales.
2. here is some kind of vague bureaucracy who Handles Things! (in this story, they’re called the magids, and one of our main protagonists is a junior magid named rupert venables and he is a prat.)
3. almost every character is kinda a jerk. the author knows it and the story knows it, but the characters may or may not ever figure it out.
deep secret is told primarily from the point of view of the two main characters: maree mallory and rupert venables. they have very different ideas of what’s going on.
rupert, who we’ve mentioned is a prat, is also a young magid with a lot of stressful things on his plate. when you first meet rupert, you kinda assume he’s an adult, that he’s experienced and steady (and full of himself–this last assumption remains true).
but one of the things that makes rupert interesting as we muddle on through is realizing how young this kid is– he’s the most junior magid on earth and he’s only been doing this a few years. he’s in his early twenties, barely out of bratty youthhood, and he’s having all of this pressure dumped on him– because the powers that be want him to fail.
he’s asked to do the impossible, and someone Higher Up really messed up here– because this kid takes himself much too seriously to even flirt with surrender. he’s got this bit in his mouth now and he is not letting go. you can just imagine whoever set this in motion sitting up in their (not quite) omniscient pedestal going oh crap oh crap what did i do
rupert’s going to do the things he’s been asked to do, or burn himself down trying. don’t underestimate young men with senses of duty that are as arrogant as they are noble.
rupert is fun and interesting (and perhaps more sympathetic on the reread), but the light, the joy, the delight and center of this book are definitely milady maree mallory (and her cousin nick).
there are various exciting adventures in deep secret including: a science fiction and fantasy con! nursery rhymes turned deep secrets of the universe! an angry bush goddess! assassinations of crummy old emperors! driving a rickety old car across the space between universes! maree using her vet training to befriend a farmer-slash-holder-of-various-secrets-of-the-universe and then to stitch up a centaur! (did you know centaurs can’t lie? well, not directly, so listen carefully to what they say)
the book is a romp, full of magic and whizbang excitement. but it’s also populated with characters that feel solid and real. everyone’s a little blind, a little tied up in their own worlds and guesswork–and while they learn some things, while they grow and step forward into the light, they don’t change all the way. they don’t get fixed. rupert is always going to be an arrogant prat; maree’s always going to be fierce and sometimes nasty, with a big heart and a throbbing voice; nick will be a self-centered little jerk all his life, in one way or the other. they get better, they grow up–but that is still them. all their selfishnesses and rough edges are part of who they are.
and deep secret dances around that, throwing confetti: here, these are my jerks, and by the end of this you will love them. they are selfish and young; silly and ignorant and sometimes very very brave. they will never grow up and out of this, and they are worth loving anyway. they are worth loving perhaps because of exactly how flawed they are.
I’ve just finished reading Deep Secret and I’m devastated. Why aren’t Diana’s fans talking about it all the time? Maree Mallory is such a charming character (although somehow I feel like there wasn’t quite enough of her, like DWJ should have explored her more, depression and all that, we know it but we don’t really see it) and the whole Babylon thing was wonderful and oh the convention…
Are you still doing headcanons? Because I would like to request Rupert and Maree (I couldn't pick just one of them XD)
zomfg how can you choose between Rupert and Maree?!
Rupert and Maree
1. They end up having three kids. It seemed like a good compromise: they both agreed that they wanted a few kids, but neither did they want the zoo that Will and Carina had (they ended up with nine; since Maree had first met Will, they had welcomed Victor, Veronica, and Vivienne)
“We aren’t doing that ‘V. Venables’ nonsense,” she had told him during her first pregnancy.
“Of course not,” Rupert had replied.
So they had Robert, who was the splitting image of Nick, but who had a sweet personality that certainly didn’t come from any of them. Then there was Andrew, quick witted, and forever getting into trouble. And then there was Seraphin, who took apart her first computer at the age of five, and things got more intense from there on out.
(Maree had still been bleary after labor, and the idea of using one of her other names suddenly seemed like a good idea, but she didn’t get Sempronia out right so they put down Seraphina instead which was, to be honest, a bit better.)
2. It ended up turning out that the good looking author in the leather jacket at the convention that started it all was Neil Gaiman. While Maree realized that she had, obviously, far more important things on her mind at the time, she still cursed at herself for missing the opportunity to get a picture with him or at least say hi or something.
(She told Rupert this, he snorted, and then he slept on the couch that night)
3. Rupert kept in touch with Davros. Perhaps it was out of line professionally as a Magid, but he really respected the man, and Davros seemed to find the hijinks that Maree and him got into amusing.
He didn’t realize how close of friends they had become until he asked Davros to be Andrew’s godfather.