‘I can’t do magic, sir’, Christopher said.
‘So can’t a lot of people. Some are born that way,’ Dr. Pawson bawled. ‘Do better than that, Chant. Show me. Don’t do some magic and let me see.’
Yes yes yes! Here, at the end of February, we have made it to my absolute favourite Diana Wynne Jones book, and one of my favourites of all time. I first picked up this book in my local library when I was around 10, and it was always close to my heart. It reminded me of Harry Potter in a way, but felt more fun and quirky. After I finished it I pushed it on my mum, who absolutely adores it.
The Lives of Christopher Chant is about … well, Christopher Chant. Christopher’s parents suck; his dad is distant and eventually gets kicked out by his mum, who is vapid and quite frankly does not understand parenting at all. She gets in a governess to educate and essentially raise her son, and her brother Ralph becomes Christopher’s only friend. Once Chritopher’s parents are split up, he gets sent to boarding school, where he sucks at magic lessons. Although life is kind of depressing for Christopher, he gets his escape through his dreams, where he visits different worlds and goes on epic adventures. Ralph finds out about Christopher’s dreams, and decides to set up some …”experiments” to see what he can do.
There is one specific scene I will never forget: Christopher desides he wants to be a famous cricket player and practices a lot with his friends at school. One day, it goes horribly wrong, and Christopher gets hit over the head with a cricket bat and kills him. But then, Christopher wakes up in the morgue. What?? At least everyone reacts realistically..
This is just one of many powerful scenes, but it’s the one that has never left me.
Anyways, it’s spoilers time! Trust me, if you haven’t read the book yet skip the spoilers! This book is a gem, it’s beautiful and perfect. Don’t dampen the fun, meet me back at the picture instead!
So Christopher’s dreams? Yeah, they’re not dreams. They are spirit trips, when Christopher’s spirit splits from his body when he’s sleeping and solidifies on the split of the parallel universes. Ralph very quickly finds this out, and uses Christopher’s abilities to smuggle highly illegal magical goods to their world – like dragon blood and mermaid meat. (The scene where Christopher finds out that he had been smuggling mermaid meat, the mermaids he had known and seen, is so heart breaking.) Ralph doesn’t care about Christopher, and in the end Christopher has to face that he had been used by the one family member he thought loved him. Ouch.
Also, Ralph had given Christopher a lucky silver coin – which just so happens to be the reason he can’t practise magic. Christopher is allergic to silver, in a sense, and once he throws the coin away he is revealed to be insanely talented and powerful. Once it’s revealed that he has more than 1 life (i.e. after the cricket incident), he gets spirited away to Chrestomanci castle to be trained to be the next Chrestomanci. He’s unhappy there, sulks a lot, and has no friends at all.
It’s not all sad though, as Christopher comes across The Living Asheth in one of the parallel worlds. She is a young girl who is worshipped as a living goddess – oh and she’s also a super powerful enchantress. They become friends, and she names herself Millie after the school stories Christopher smuggled for her. They find out that The Living Asheth has to be a young girl, and that she is to be killed when she gets too old. She escapes to Chrestomanci castle, where Christopher is, and they find out that Millie’s priestess/governess would have smuggled her out safely anyways – but at least they now end up together. This is quite a cute little relationship, and is especially touching because we already know from the first book of the series that they end up married.
This book is amazing. It’s mind-blowing, touching, funny, and creative. It’s also very sad – and seriously, what are Jones’ issues with family?
Also, for readers who are not from England, this book paints probably the most English picture ever. It’s got boarding schools, cricket, distant parents (oooh burn), governesses and everything stereotypical. It just feels so English. Reading this book will transport you to a beautiful boarding school, amidst green, green rolling hills. You’ll be able to feel the sun (which in real life is pretty much never there) warm your skin, taste the Pimm’s you’d be drinking whilst watching a cricket match (which is the most boring thing ever).
Christopher Chant is an amazing character. He’s a child, and because of that has a naivity and innoscence to him – but he can also be selfish and rude. All he wants in life is to have a loving family – and to become a famous cricket player. Which I’m pretty sure is a dichotomy. Also, Christopher will become the Chrestomanci we came across in earlier novels that I already discussed here. And I love him. So much. The dreaminess of the character is central to the plot here, in a way, and his sense of humour and longing for family are shown in the other novels. It’s so heartwarming when you think about it, that we’ve seen his loving family – especially his wife – in the first novel of the series, and see how they meet and become friends in this one. Although I love Christopher Chant (as the Chrestomanci, I’m not a perv!), I would never come between Christopher and Millie.
Like in a lot of Jones’ novels, the main character is a disenfranchised child who learns that he has immense powers. These powers are not what he wants, usually all her protagonists just want to be loved, but they do facilitate that desire.
The Lives of Christopher Chant is the epitomy of Jonesism. Read it, it will make you happy. That I promise!
The tea I decided to match with this read is actually not a tea at all. Boom! What a twist! Just like how Jones plays with form, I play with …tea? Anyways, this is a delightful infusion of Rooibos, lime blossom and honeybush from one of my local favourites, Anteaques. This infusion is very light, slightly sweet, and caffeine free. It’s very relaxing, and a great pre-sleep drink – hence the name Night Melody. The honeybush give it the honey flavour, but without that heavy texture and stickiness you get when you put actual honey in your tea. Another perk of using honeybush as a honey replacement is that it’s vegan! With the lime blossom you get that slight hint of freshness, but because it’s the blossom rather than the fruit the tanginess that you get with lime is absent, leaving a soothing and easy drink.
So drink your relaxing cup of Night Melody, pop your copy of The Lives of Christopher Chant under your pillow, and dream yourself into Jones’ Chrestomanci world – because you know it by heart already anyways.