Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton

242 pages
Copyright 1962
Harper & Row, Publishers
New York, NY

The Diamond in the Window is the first book in the Hall Family Chronicles by Jane Langton. The Chronicles consists of eight books that were published between 1962 and 2008.

The Plot:
Set in Concord, Massachusetts in the present day (present when published in 1962), The Diamond in the Window is a story that involves mystery, romance, adventure, and fantasy. While most of the story is written in prose a few quotes and some poetry is scattered within.

"Eddy and Eleanor Hall have always known that their family was a bit out of the ordinary. After all, they live in one of the most remarkable houses in all of Concord. But they never guessed just how extraordinary their house really is, or what tremendous secrets about their family's past it holds. That is, until they discover the magical attic room with its beautiful stained-glass window, abandoned toys, and two perfectly made-up, empty beds that seem to be waiting perhaps for two children just like themselves...." (Summary courtesy of the publisher)

My Thoughts:
I was intrigued from the first page of The Diamond in the Window. As I quoted earlier this week in my Tuesday Teaser post, the opening paragraphs made for a compelling read. Ms. Langton writes well as a children's storyteller and I found the book both clever and amusing. The characters were fun as well, with some being easily likable and others appropriately despicable. That said, there was a point, about two thirds into the story, where my interest lagged a little. It wasn't really that the story dragged, because it didn't. It had more to do with the fact I wasn't excited to find so much of the story revolved around the 19th century belief of transcendentalism. I kept wondering where Ms. Langton was going with the story and why she focusing on this out-of-date philosophy.

As I read on the answer to these questions became clear. First, it is evident in her writing that Ms. Langton is both fascinated and passionate about Concord, Massachusetts history and its connection with the late 19th century transcendentalist movement. Second, in writing a story that involves beliefs and philosophies from generations past it only makes sense to include some of the local celebrities who played a part in the movement (Enter Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau). In turn these celebrities play a historic part in the story, which ties everything neatly together and makes for a very different type of story.

I was pleased to find when I reached the end of the book that even though Ms. Langton makes the transcendentalist movement a part of her story it isn't the point of her story. There is no "preachiness" in the story, it's just a means to an end. The real point of the story is a tale of mystery and adventure and good overcoming evil. The Diamond in the Window is definitely a fantasy with impossible adventures, some of which are a little weird like a dream... but for the most part the book is just plain fun. It reminds me a great deal of another children's book I read and reviewed, The Enchanted Castle by Edith Nesbit and also a little of a book I started, but never finished, The King in the Window by Adam Gopnik.

My Summary
Overall I can say I enjoyed The Diamond in the Window. It was a fun read, but with a somewhat predictable ending (but probably less so for young readers). On a scale of 1-5, 1 being horrible and 5 being excellent I would rate The Diamond in the Window a 3.5. It was a good read, but I will admit the transcendentalism stuff kind of turned me off from giving the book a higher rating; still I might take a look at the rest of the Hall Family Chronicles at some point in the future. In the meantime, fans of The Enchanted Castle may find a winner in this book.

For more information about the series or about Ms. Langton check out this Wiki article.


Carrie said...

This book sounds QUIANT and FUN. Thanks for reviewing it. I had never heard of it before (not too suprising) and it was, as always, good to hear your thoughts on things!

Nicola said...

I read this book as a kid in the 70s and was absolutely fascinated with it. It was certainly one of the first real fantasy books I read. It was all just so strang to me. I've never re-read it and at the time never knew there were any sequels, maybe one hadn't been written at the time, I don't know.

I do keep telling myself I should re-read it and read the whole series one of these days.

Diane said...

The setting of Concord appeals to me, as it is a beautiful town. I like reading books in a setting that I am familiar with; great review-thanks