richard burrowes

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Burrowing Owl (Athene cuniculariaby Court Richards

I loved my mother desperately as a child. My fondest memories are of all three of us snuggling up to her for a bedtime story. She read very well and I often feel that she imagined her own books being read aloud as she wrote. They read aloud beautifully, as Neil Gaiman says in his obituary on the Internet. Later on I was to read all her books to my own children, and I discovered an almost poetic beauty at times, especially in the Dalemark books, which  always imagine being spoken by some bard who has scraped them together from various oral traditions.

It is in these books and a few others like The Homeward Bounders, Hexwood and Fire and Hemlock that one discovers the real heart of this deeply shy and guarded person: as with Charles Dickens and Georgette Heyer, two of her favourite writers, her books are sustained by an enormous love; a child-like yearning to create a world that fully satisfies the human soul. As with Dickens this yearning is so powerful that it creates an almost poetic language and rhythm which help to transform the everyday world. (Dickens, it is said, had constantly to guard against slipping into blank verse, and, reading Drowned Ammet, one feels that same song-like quality; music, always the most immediately emotional of the arts, constantly threatens to take over.

This yearning or elegiac quality that one finds in many of Mum’s best books ia partly a sign of the deep pain caused by her upbringing .At the heart of her books is a sense of loss. From this point of view The Homeward Bounders, the most tragic of her books, is also the most honest. The main character is left literally creating worlds for others while never being able to return to his own. This book is atypical, however; more frequently the poetic beauty, the humour and the sensuous vividness of the fantasy transport the reader away from this imperfect world. So many of the Tweets that have flooded in recently have referred to one or other of Mum’s books as the writer’s “comfort book”; read time and again in times of stress. The pain of her upbringing may have meant that she could only give and receive comfort sporadically in the “real world”, but what she gave us is in a sense real in a deeper way: a direct line to that perfect world which all of us yearn for whether we know it or not.

—  Richard Burrow at the funeral of his late mother, Diana Wynne Jones