Sit up and listen

29th December 2000 at 00:00
THE WORLDS OF CHRESTOMANCI. By Diana Wynne Jones. THE LIVES OF CHRISTOPHER CHANT. Read by Samuel West. CHARMED LIFE READ BY TOM BAKER. Collins. Children's Audio pound;8.99 each

It is not enough, it seems, to conjure up whole worlds, people them with a dazzling array of beings, human and magical, throw in adventures either humorous or testing and come up with a denouement involving thrilling high stakes: if it were, Diana Wynne Jones would be doing as well as J K Rowling.

As it is, although the books are enjoying a renaissance this year, the series lags far behind Harry Potter in popular appeal.

Listening to these readings, articularly in the unctuous delivery of Tom Baker, it is easy to see why: this is Potter without the passion.

It is difficult to care much about the central characters and, worse, the story is not told from their point of view but rather from that of an adult with an "isn't that quaint?" outlook. The experience is like being given a Liverpool shirt when you support Everton: how can something so right feel so wrong?

Samuel West makes a better stab at reading, but the story still feels too distant. However, Wynne Jones has her own devotees, particularly girls aged between seven and 12, who will enjoy these.


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