This is one of my favourite books by Diana Wynne Jones. According to the top ten list I made three years ago, it’s my fifth favourite. I wonder if this reread project will cause any changes to the list! Even now, looking at it, I think it probably needs Enchanted Glass or The Pinhoe Egg… hmm. Anyway. Being one of my favourites, I wrote about it in my DWJ mini-zine. I don’t have it with me now, but I think I said something about always being surprised that Luke is Loki.
Oh. Yeah. Spoiler alert for that, I suppose. Although anyone reading should figure it out early on. I always forget, and then each time I reread, I remember, and get struck again by how I loved the way Diana Wynne Jones included the Norse pantheons in her novel in such an unremarkable, ordinary way. And then I get this uncontrollable glee by the fact that I am reading a LOKI BOOK, which of course I should have already known, since I’ve reread this book a LOT.
After writing that down, though, there was no way I could forget again. So this time, I picked up Eight Days of Luke with the happy anticipation of reading a Loki book. And it struck me again. Not that Luke was Loki, or even that Mr. Wedding was Odin and Mr. Chew was Tyr, but that there was just so much that I didn’t just forget, but had completely MISSED, in my previous readings, just because I didn’t know my myths well enough back then in some cases, or wasn’t reading closely enough in others. I didn’t realise that Mr. Wedding’s limo was Sleipnir because I didn’t know about Sleipnir; I forgot about the spoilery twist about the ending because that particular myth always escaped me; and I hadn’t been reading closely enough to completely appreciate that Mr. Wedding took David across the Bifrost to Asgard in one of the best fade-into-fantasyland scenes I’ve read, and I’m only JUST noticing. A friend once said that the fact that I tend to neglect Norse myth other than the Loki-centric stories in my readings was going to come back and bite me, and in a way, it had. There are other bits, but mostly it’s just be forgetting and remembering again and being really happy to find the book not only as good, but much better, than I remembered.
As I mentioned before going into the squeefest, I loved this book for – again – DWJ’s organic use of magic. I felt this even more strongly here than in the last two novels. I had admired how Witch’s Business/Wilkin’s Tooth incorporated fairy tale elements into a very ordinary setting, and in Eight Days of Luke, she took that further. The way she described how sceneries and people could be ordinary and not at the same time – like when David realised that Luke did not follow the same rules as other people, or that Mr. Wedding had only one eye, or that Wallsey was still Wallsey, and yet was somewhere else entirely – reminded me a lot of Fire and Hemlock (I really can’t wait to get to Fire and Hemlock!) There are also other fairy tale/mythological tropes in this book – more bargains, quests, and the emphasis on the proper wording of things, and the gods’ idea of fair play – that it would be a good book with just that, but like Wilkin’s Tooth and The Ogre Downstairs, there’s the narrative on untrustworthy adults and horrible relatives and abuse and it made me realise all over again how this book saved me as a kid.
Because David’s family were awful, not just in that exaggerated way adults were in some children’s books (although I suppose there might be some of that), but in ways that were completely relatable, and believable. (Or were they just believable to me, because they’re so much like the adults I knew as a child? I’m not sure.) This was another thing that struck me as a kid, and Mr. Wedding’s advice to David was one that I took to heart. There’s a post that had been going around on Tumblr about Roald Dahl’s Matilda, and how it’s a story of a girl who leaves her (horrible) biological family and instead makes a new home with Ms. Honey. David gets to do that in Eight Days of Luke, and that really makes me happy. Really, this reread made me think of a lot of things to talk about – I haven’t even started on David and Luke’s friendship – but I think I shall stop here, and leave the rest to my future self to rediscover.
– previously posted on my Weebly site