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Black Maria

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,553 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
Mig journals Easter visit to guilt-provoking Great Aunt Maria in Cranbury, where Dad drove off cliff. Year older brother Chris insults indistinguishable sycophantic "Mrs Urs". Mum doesn't notice when Maria, amid mild talk, talk, talk, turns Chris into wolf. Ghostly visitor is 20-years missing Antony Green. Neutral old brother-sister Phelps shift time. Cats feature.
Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 1992 by Mammoth (first published 1991)
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Feb 03, 2015 Mariel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: court jester parrots
Recommended to Mariel by: Miriam
I think it was then that it dawned on me that Mum wasn't going to notice Chris was missing. She has been made so that she thinks Chris is just round the corner all the time. She doesn't realise that she never sees him. I don't know why I didn't understand earlier. If Aunt Maria can turn Chris into a wolf, she's surely strong enough to do this to Mum- except that it seems a different kind of thing, much more natural and ordinary, and I didn't really think she could do both kinds.

Old Aunt Maria's
Here, Jones examines the workings of families and the relationship between the sexes. After her father's car goes over a cliff, Mig, her brother Chris, and their mother go to stay with Mig's Aunt Maria in the little town of Cranbury-on-Sea, but they quickly realize that all is not as it seems to be: the women, under Aunt Maria's rod of iron, rule the town, the men almost all act like zombies, and the only children are locked away in an orphanage. Along with the characteristically inventive story ...more
Feb 06, 2016 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya-mg
Terrifying and perfect. I want to write a 10-book thesis about gender in this book.
Jun 07, 2015 C. rated it really liked it
So that was my last DWJ, sigh. I suppose I'll have to start buying them now.

I think because my edition has an awful, awful cover, I didn't like this book when I first read it, years and years ago. This was only the second time I've read it, and naturally it was very good. Not one of her best, I think, but DWJ's worst is better than, I would say, pretty much all of the children's literature being published today.
Pam Baddeley
Apr 23, 2016 Pam Baddeley rated it really liked it
Mig, who writes stories and keeps a journal to document her experiences, tells how she, her brother Chris and their mum, are spending the Easter holidays at the home of aunt Maria who lives by the sea. Their father, who had left to live with another woman, has recently been killed in a car accident while on the way to visit the aunt.

It soon becomes apparent that Maria is a master manipulator and loves nothing more than to have Mig and her family dancing attendance on her. And she is a queen bee
Mar 05, 2016 cookiemonger rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Well, the cover is slightly misleading in a bibbity-bobbity way.

I initially thought of just letting that be my review, but that wouldn't really help someone who hasn't read this book with this cover. If you have, then you know it's rather like seeing a poster for The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue used as the cover of Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I prefer the demented version of the titular character from the German version, but I digress.

Mig, her brother Chris, and their mum are poli
If I didn't already love DWJ, I wouldn't have finished this. The writing style, the humour, the feeling of it all going to pot and then safety at the last second-that was all her. But it was grown up. Darker. A little crazier. More like 8 Days of Luke than her normal fantasy stuff. And while I enjoyed how she played with the traditional myths in Luke, I didn't like this one so well. Maybe it's because I didn't know so much about the legends she pulled from this time-it was hard going-and like sh ...more
Jul 03, 2007 Clare rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Wynne-Jones when I was young so it was great to see that the writing does stand up to adult scrutiny. The story was pacy and exciting - she's a past master at suckering the reader in. And the tone was just right - the child narrator didn't sound stilted or unrealistic.

However, the story has dated a little. I think one of the problems is that Wynne-Jones has decided to deal with "issues" - fatal, really. Briefly to explain, the town has been divided along gender lines. The women are in co
Nesa Sivagnanam
Jan 26, 2011 Nesa Sivagnanam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's this idea that books for children and young adults are meant to be read by children and young adults. I don't know what that says about me as I'm very fond of these books, sometimes choosing them over books meant for adults.

Wynne Jones has always been someone whose books I've liked and Black Maria is no exception. She builds her characters well. I could clearly see Mig and her family. Mig always trying for a happy ending even if her idea of a happy ending is not the same as that of the p
Sep 07, 2008 Tyas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dad perished when his car fell off a cliff when he was going to visit Great Aunt Maria, his aunt by marriage. That after he ran away from home with a blonde named Verena Bland. Dad’s misadventures were terrible enough, but then Mig and her brother Chris found out that Mum had decided that they would stay with Aunt Maria during Easter holiday to help her. She was so old and feeble (according to her and her neighbours), and her servant had to leave in a hurry, so her relatives would be very helpfu ...more
Jane Lebak
Oct 15, 2013 Jane Lebak rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya-and-mg
I love Diana Wynne Jones' books. I've read everything I could get my hands on, but I have to admit, the ending ruined the entire book for me.

The beginning and middle of this book really had my heart--a real page-turner. The characters' plight is gripping, and Aunt Maria is the most hateful villain I've had the pleasure of reading. The main characters are very self-determined when they get motivated. When the mother stops remembering her own son, my heart was broken. But the ending felt horribly
Julie Davis
Aug 06, 2011 Julie Davis rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Diving back into the stack of Diana Wynne Jones books from my kind friend who evidently has an endless supply.
In Cranbury-on-Sea Aunt Maria rules with a rod of sweetness far tougher than iron and deadlier than poison. Strange and awful things keep happening in Cranbury. Why are all the men apparently gray-suited zombies? Why do all the children -- if you ever see them -- behave like clones? And what has happened to Mig's brother, Chris? Could gentle, civilized Aunt Maria, with her talk and daily
Children's modern fantasy. Mig, her mother and her brother Chris are gently connived into going to visit their great aunt Maria (pronounced Mar-eye-ah) in a village by the sea, in which she rules with lace curtains and gentility. There's something wrong with the village, though. The men and women seem to be at war, the children all look like clones, and Mig and Chris' dad, who's supposed to be dead, seems to be driving around town.

My love for Diana Wynne Jones is well documented. This is one tha
Jan 25, 2016 Rick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was totally with this book right up until the very end, which I thought wrapped things up too quickly and too neatly. And although to be completely fair, it does fit with the general conceit of the book being was written by a girl who loves stories with happy endings, it did pull me out of the story very abruptly. Also, the book does present some pretty interesting thoughts on gender relations, and the inherently problematic nature of differentiating between sexes, but they are never really fu ...more
May 07, 2014 Ngaire rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-loved, ya-lit
Another one of my favorites, Black Maria (sometimes published as Aunt Maria in the USA) is about how far people will go to manage other people and how to resist being managed. But it's a lot more fun than that sounds - Aunt Maria is an awesome creation who gets people to do what she wants through both magic and good old fashioned manipulation and guilt-tripping. Mig, Chris and their mother are only supposed to stay in Cranbury-on-Sea for a few days over Easter, but when Chris starts seeing a gho ...more
Aug 16, 2014 Kathryn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dwj
This is the first DWJ book that I've read written in the first person and it is fantastic. It's got just the right amount of everything. As always, DWJ manages to combine perfectly fantasy and real life drama, even if the part of the real life issues are a bit dated (the gender roles, mostly) while very rigid in DWJ's day are less so now.

Compared to Fire and Hemlock, Aunt Maria wraps up nicely in the end, but DWJ does tend to leave her endings a bit open, ambiguous, and not completely happy. Th
Emily Collins
Oct 25, 2012 Emily Collins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why is this called Black Maria? Why is my copy NOT called Black Maria? Is it because I'm American? Darn it.
Very good! One of her shorter books, it's sat in my bookshelf for years and I'm not sure if I've read it before. Horribly exciting and magic and a little nerve wracking because I kept expecting everyone to die.
Maria made me was to punch something. Teddy-bearish my foot.
I hated the boys versus girls thing, though. Mostly because Mig just wanted to help and Mr. Phelps was such an a-hole to h
I read this book and it was called "Aunt Maria," not sure why there was a title change (to appeal to a wider audience?).

Diana Wynne Jones is my favorite fantasy author, but this is one of the rare times where I don't particularly like her book. This is probably my least favorite DWJ book that I’ve read, which makes me kind of sad. The back cover makes it sound so much more exciting than it actually was. It was a good book, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t great.

The whole male/female magic thing
An Odd1
Jan 31, 2014 An Odd1 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
"But it's no good thinking happy endings just happen" p 136. Fleeting "little jabs of sanity in a vast numb desert of boredom" p 181. "So now you know, you won't very often be deceived by your expectations" p 203. Clouded up by a clutter of cast. Mrs Urs have many Misters.

Mig (Naomi Margaret Laker) journals Easter visit to expert guilt-manipulator Great Aunt Maria in Cranbury, where Dad Greg drove off cliff. Mig seems 8-11, submissive, tearful. One of the funniest passages is her as a kitten "w
Dec 29, 2015 Dawn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 15, 2014 Alison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book, but there was quite a bit of colloquial language that I didn't understand. Probably because I'm not British :)
Victoria Radford
Wow. I'm embarrassed to admit I put off reading this one, partly because I felt it would be more specifically children's literature than YA, and partly because after DWJ's death I am aware that there aren't many of her books left for me to read, so I try to eke them out. But what a powerhouse of a story! Powerlessness and capability are continuing themes in DWJ's writing, and here she provides a tremendously interesting exploration of gender relations, all wrapped up in the usual rip-roaring sto ...more
Ea Solinas
Everyone has one -- an older relative who disapproves of you unless you do what she wishes, and isn't nearly as nice as she pretends to be.

But "Black Maria" turns out to be even worse than your average annoying relative, in this engaging, humourous and chilling fantasy novel. Diana Wynne-Jones spins a fantastical story of witchcraft and revenge, all centering on the elderly lady who sweetly lords it over Cranbury-on-Sea.

After her father is apparently killed in a car accident, Mig and her family
This annoyed me enormously for the first half, due to the infuriating Aunt Maria. But Wynne Jones has such an uncanny ability to hook a reader that there's no getting away once you've started, so I had to grit my teeth and continue. And of course, she delivered a great story. I thought the climax / solution was a wee bit too easy at the end, but it still hung together well enough to provide a very entertaining read. It's true: no one does magic like DWJ.
Katharina Gerlach
The good thing about being ill is that I get to read a lot. ;-) I've been looking forward to this book for a long time, and was happy I finally managed to read it.

The story is clearly aimed at younger readers, but it also is a bit scary for those too young. I'd say readers from 12 up will enjoy this enormously. I loved the main character and really disliked Aunt Maria. Unfortunately, she was so well developed, and her motives so normal, that I loved her too. Despite her frightening abilities, sh
Basil D
Mar 02, 2016 Basil D rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think DWJ herself said that this was one of the books she couldn't re-read because she found it so frightening. I have to say, as a child I didn't get this at all, but reading it as an adult I find Aunt Maria so suffocating and frightening. Also, I'd love to know what upside-down-v eyebrows look like, because I really can't picture them. Great book!
Feb 14, 2015 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is rather bleaker than most Diana Wynne Jones: I knew it was about an abusive family, but that's a topic DWJ deals with a lot and none of those were quite so unremitting in the terribleness of the abusive family member. Maria is a horror, a true villain. That doesn't mean this is unreadable - DWJ is nothing if not unputdownable at all times - but damn.
Much as it pains me to give anything less than five stars to anything by DWJ, this was not one of her best (hey, they can't ALL be fantastic, can they?). The pacing felt uneven, and I think the resolutions was a bit too vague for the book's intended audience. The narrator, Mig, was another problem for me - her constant tears and whininess and inability to do much of anything for herself did not make her a tremendously sympathetic character, though I suppose she was rather realistic.

On the plus s
Sudha Neelakantan
Oct 13, 2014 Sudha Neelakantan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Love most of her books but this one was one to avoid...

predictable, needlessly dark, no magic system worth speaking of... and it's hard to get through if you can't relate to any one character deeply. just avoid this one if you love the chrestomanci series or howls.moving castle
Nov 12, 2014 Ren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
**3.5 STARS!

This book overall was quite good, venturing into 'really good' territory in parts, especially towards the end where the message of the book became more clear. My problems with it were mostly just that it was a little hard to get into at first and that I had trouble connecting to the story as a whole. I enjoyed reading it, but I wasn't emotionally affected. Except for Aunt Maria, and when it came to her I was so angry because, minus witch powers, she was SO realistic in her manipulati
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Diana Wynne Jones was the author of more than thirty critically acclaimed fantasy stories, including the Chrestomanci series and the novels Howl's Moving Castle and Dark Lord of Derkholm.

For Diana Wynne Jones's official autobiography, please see
More about Diana Wynne Jones...

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