DWJ: The Time of the Ghost

My copy from the UK.
The Time of the Ghost was a book I missed for years until my husband and I took a sort of newly-wed trip to the UK in 1996 and I raided the children's section of Blackwell's in Oxford for all the DWJ titles I didn't own.  I even had a special commission from a fellow DWJ fan back home to find Wild RobertTime of the Ghost (and, I think, Black Maria) were the only titles that I had not read at all; I'd never heard of them.

To me, this is easily the scariest DWJ book there is.  It's practically a children's horror story, it's so creepy.  I think it's great.  Four neglected and oddball sisters set up a game of worshiping an old rag doll they call Monigan, and accidentally wake up a real and ancient presence.  Time of the Ghost is also where DWJ put the most direct descriptions of her own family, though she said that she toned them down for believability.  

The sisters are trapped in two ways, by Monigan and by their own parents.  There is no help for them except what they can do for themselves to break free of both prisons.  It's interesting to me that the sisters have to fight both a mythic and a real danger--and they act in similar ways, though the parents are kept at a distance--in one story, since more often in a fantasy story, the protagonist's fight against a mythic evil is a symbolic stand-in for our more prosaic struggles.   Here is where we see most clearly DWJ's preoccupation with a devouring maternal figure as Monigan prepares to consume the girls, while the mother does pretty well the same thing at a remove, through neglect and manipulation.

In our house we are particularly fond of Fenella and her bell.  We have been known to go around intoning "Unclean!  Unclean!"


  1. It took me so long to love this book. But it's become one of my favorites -- you're right in saying it's maybe her scariest. The ending is killer.

  2. I was really frightened when I first read it a few years ago. That's probably why I haven't read it again yet! I'm hoping to get to it this month though because I know so much more about DWJ's childhood now.


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