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The Time of the Ghost

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  2,337 Ratings  ·  162 Reviews
Can a ghost from the future save a life in the past? A chilling tale of dark forces and revenge…


The ghost turns up one summer day, alone in a world she once knew, among people who were once her family. She knows she is one of four sisters, but which one? She can be sure of only one thing – that there's been an accident.
As she struggles to find her identity, she becomes awa
...more
Paperback, 222 pages
Published 2001 by HarperCollins Children's Books (first published 1981)
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Melissa McShane
Is it just coincidence that Diana Wynne Jones's creepiest book is also her 13th published?

The unnamed, bodiless narrator knows only two things: that she is one of four sisters, and that there's been a terrible accident. She follows the sisters around, trying to discover which one she is, and finds more questions than answers. Where is middle sister Sally? What does the Worship of Monigan--a funny game Cart, the oldest sister, made up that has sinister undertones--have to do with her present cond
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Nikki
Oct 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, mystery
It's quite strange reading this after reading the Reflections collection, knowing how autobiographical this happens to be. And how things that really happened to Diana Wynne Jones had to be toned down to be at all believable in the story. Of course, it still has that expansive, slightly breakneck pace of most of Jones' work -- there's something a little, well, mad about it. Colourful. I don't know how to describe it -- it's a swirl of colours and impressions. A child's imagination.

I read this al
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Fiona
Diana Wynne Jones is one of the best, respected, but vastly unknown fantasy authors out there. Despite this trying to find her in a bookshop is like wringing water from a stone. She is overshadowed by all the other fad-of-the-month books, which is such a shame as she’s a good, quality author.

I don’t know why. Maybe it is because she hasn’t really written many big series, apart from Chrestomanci and she can never be trusted to write them in chronological order either. Or maybe it’s because there’
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Margaret
This is a walk on the darker side for the usually light-hearted Diana Wynne Jones. The titular ghost is one of a family of four sisters - only she doesn't know which one. As the ghost observes her family (richly characterized by Jones), she slowly figures out which sisters she is and what happened to her, and she discovers that she has the power to prevent something terrible from happening: the fulfillment of a bargain the sisters made with the mysterious goddess Monigan, whom the sisters though ...more
Kevin Fanning
Nov 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
GUGHGHGHGHGGH. So creepy and hilarious and great? How do you even write a book like this. HOW DO YOU GET IT PUBLISHED.

Our hero here is a ghost. She's not sure why she's a ghost, or who she is, but she senses something's wrong, and she has to fix it. She figures out that she's part of a family of 4 sisters, but isn't quite sure (for like _90%_ of the book) which sister she is.

The trick of a narrator who has to solve a mystery but who doesn't even know who she is blows my mind. How the author pu
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Miriam
Jun 20, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, younger, ya, memory
I need to reread this one, I think it confused me when I was a kid. There were some sisters whose parents ran a boarding school and didn't take care of them. And a witch? A ghost? The ghost of witch? Something evil and scary, anyhow.
Verena
Nov 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Anyone who has read a couple of books by Diana Wynne Jones knows that anything can happen and the explanation in the end is almost never the one you expected it to be in the beginning. This is true for Time of the Ghost, too, and although it certainly is not Diana Wynne Jones' best book, it was nonetheless great fun to watch the story unfold and find out what's behind all the strange goings-on.

I agree that it is to a certain amount darker than her other books, a little more disturbing, too. I've
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Hirondelle
Mar 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very strange YA fiction, with a typically DWJ complex plot, and an unreliable narrator (not spoilerish, she is openly confused from the start).

But what makes this truly remarkable is the portrayal of the parents, some of the most appalling incompetent evil by neglect parents I ever read about in fiction - though truth being stranger and far more appalling than fiction it echoes media account of real life cases and DWJs recollections of her own, and her sisterss childhoods.

Not sure how good it
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Alexis
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
I first read this one back in high school, if I remember correctly, but I think I was too stupid to understand it properly. I picked it up again because I have en endless faith in Diana Wynne Jones...and I mostly just wanted to prove to myself that she can write, after the totally yawn-inducing Merlin Conspiracy.

I like this a lot better now than I did as a kid. I can keep up with the time jumps better and I'm less emotionally dependent on the characters, which allows me to keep an eye out for th
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Sean
Oct 27, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, non-us
All of Diana Wynne Jones's books annoy me in some way. This is apparently a cosmological law. They are all flawed, most of them are disjointed, and while reading them I am constantly distracted as I rewrite the plotting and characterization in my head. But all of her books are intriguing and inventive, and they are all distinctively "Wynne-Jonesian."

The Time of the Ghost is no exception to any of these rules. It's part mystery, part ghost story, part growing-up tale, part dark fantasy, and when
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Jannah (Cloud Child)
3.5/5
Reread (after many years therefore I had very vague recollections of it)
Well..! Mixed feelings. The whole book was very grey and drab and dreary. If this was a movie it would be mostly sepia I think.
Not to say that the book dragged on or that I got bored certainly not.
But the horror was not horrible. It was very dreamlike and dusty as if nothing was sharp and clear rather like the ghost herself.
The characters were all interesting and I would have liked a clearer picture.
The ending was lik
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Kate
DWJ is so good at writing childhood. She nails the peculiar powerlessness of being a child, and the compensatory power of imagination (which DWJ, unlike most of us, never lost), as well as the sense of a rigid and incomprehensible set of rules at work.

She's also brilliant at writing people who are people, not just characters. All of the sisters are fully formed, even Cart, whom ghost-Sally initially repeatedly describes as "blurred": "There was about her, blurred and vast, the feeling of powerfu
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Ellie
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Creepy and enthralling. I'll definitely reread it in a few years.
Zach Sparks
Dec 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
*Contains the usual rambling spoilers.*

It's been so long since I read this book that this was almost a fresh read. I do remember being confused the 1st time I read it because I didn't quite work out that the small things that the children gave to Monigan were meant to represent different things. What I mean is, Monigan cheated, and instead of only taking the items at face value, she also stole what they could represent. Monigan is greedy and will always to try and take whatever she can get. Will
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Magali
Aug 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-reread
The first time I read this book I thought the best part about it was the brilliant and subtle way this unusual ghost story unfolds: "There's been an accident," it begins, and we (and the titular ghost) spend the next few hundred pages trying to trace the steps that led there.

In other words, the first time I read this book, I read it as a ghost story with deep roots in mythology that was told exceptionally well. And it is certainly that (in fact it's a master class in how to make the most of a t
...more
Airiz C
This is my earliest Jones book and I remember liking it very much. Not as much as I loved the author's other works though (i.e. Howl's Moving Castle and Hexwood). I always have a penchant for deliciously dark tales, especially the kind that confuses the readers in a good way and in so many levels.

The Time of the Ghost is a perplexing story, the main reason being the unreliability of the narrator who is a ghost. She doesn't know who she is. The only things that she's sure of are 1) an accident h
...more
Alethea
Dec 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
I finally have a spare moment (or so I tell myself, refusing to look at the stack of assignments glaring at me…) to catch up on four months worth of reviews, and it feels good to get back on track. As always, my usual disclaimer: please keep in mind that it has been a considerable while since I’ve read this.
The Time of the Ghost definitely hit the creepy factor for me. After putting down the book, a chill lingered in my bones. It was a new sensation for an avid Diana Wynne Jones reader, though
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Isabel Bitterblau
Qué imagen más equivocada me hice de este libro!

Como lo encontré por la sección infantil de la biblioteca de mi barrio, me esperaba algo totalmente diferente y ha terminado siendo una historia algo más oscuras que a las que Wynne me tiene acostumbrada (no demasiado, sigue siendo un libro juvenil).

Para empezar, la protagonista es un fantasma, que no sabe exactamente quién es ni de qué ha muerto. Sabe que es una de las hermanas Melford, pero no exactamente cuál, y durante todo el libro intenta des
...more
Sistermagpie
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, kiddie-lit
Totally fascinating story about a ghost (or is she a ghost?) forced to work out the mystery of her own existence. It kept me guessing, but at the same time it's not really about the answers, at least not factually.

The central story is about a family of sisters essentially raising themselves while their neglectful and abusive parents run a school. I have a feeling this might be somewhat autobiographical, but whatever the inspiration, the family is wonderfully idiosyncratic. The girls hate each ot
...more
Raquel Laforet
Tengo la impresión de que el libro tiene un aire más infantil al principio que al final. Llega un punto (y sé exactamente cuál es) en el que la historia se vuelve más compleja de repente, y aunque como niña, no creo que hubiera tenido problemas entendiéndola, entre el final agridulce que tiene y el ritmo con el que va y viene a partir de ese punto, creo que me habría parecido una historia más terrorífica que al leerlo ahora. Aunque claro, las historias para niños de Gaiman también tienen ese pun ...more
Ellie
Oct 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent read, though if you are not familiar with Diana Wynne Jones, it may not be the best introduction to her work as it is one of her more challenging books and is definitely aimed at a more mature audience. I would still definitely recommend it to any fantay lover looking for something differend from your usual sword and dragon story. This books strongly reminded me of "Fire and Hemlock" with a slightly spooky twist, which is high praise.
JourneyThroughStoryland
It's like once you're on a rollercoaster or you start to run; you just can't stop until you're at the very end. It was basically just like that.

In the beginning I felt the creeps (perhaps I shouldn't have read it so late before bed) and just couldn't put it down until my eyes shut on their own..
I just had to know what is going to happen, 'who' the ghost is and what happened to her after that.
Lucy
Feb 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Another one of my all-time childhood favourites by Dianna Wynne Jones. I've forgotten how many times I read this story as a child, but I will never forgetten certain descriptions which have stayed with me since the first reading - and I definitely won't forget how terrified I was as a young reader, afraid to go to sleep before reaching the end. I remember even the cover art kept me awake at night!
Helen
A ghost story told from the point of view of the ghost! The ghost is one of four sisters but she doesn’t remember which one she is, or how she came to be a ghost.

The characters in this book are brilliantly done, each of the sisters is unique and complex. It’s very well written and the story had me guessing right up to the end.
Wealhtheow
Jul 01, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, ya
YA, but a great read all the same. A forgotten goddess and four almost-forgotten sisters collide, and terrible trouble can only be averted by a little judicious time travel. I love the characters of the sisters, all of whom have such distinct and interesting personalities that I never confused them for a moment.
Genevieve
Jan 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite D WJ. Fantastical and mysterious, and at the same time a brilliant portrait of the stuggled-up children of eccentric neglectful parents. (Of course this is the author's most auto-biographical book).
Somesuchlike
I think reading this book right before going to sleep was a mistake. The ending is rather creepy, which I didn't expect at all. In fact, I didn't expect most of what happened in it - there's somewhat of a twist in the middle.
Sarah
Oct 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've never read another book like it! Thoroughly enjoyable, although I wouldn't recommend it to children under 16.
Faith
From the first page, the mystery of the narrator (who is she? What accident has happened?) draws the reader into the story. This is a masterful device, but also necessary given that the first half or so is mostly character work. And what character work! Every character in this book feels entirely real, but none more so than the four sisters. They are complicated, difficult, argumentative, imaginative, independent, irritating, young. In Cart, Sally, Imogen and Fenella Wynne Jones marvelously capt ...more
Jean Lee
Apr 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Diana Wynne Jones is my all-time favorite writer, but even I will admit that some stories are better than others. I love the premise of The Time of the Ghost. I love the sisterhood, especially as I have no sisters, and I love the unique way the sisters have to work together to stop the villain. I only wish the villain could have been given a bit more time to be menacing, to build up the tension and pacing a bit more. But I might have missed some of this, however, as I was so fixed on the family ...more
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Diana was born in London, the daughter of Marjorie (née Jackson) and Richard Aneurin Jones, both of whom were teachers. When war was announced, shortly after her fifth birthday, she was evacuated to Wales, and thereafter moved several times, including periods in Coniston Water, in York, and back in London. In 1943 her family finally settled in Thaxted, Essex, where her parents worked running an ed ...more
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“Imogen relaxed a little. She dared to sit up. “Cart’s blood sugar is low in the mornings,” she explained to Fenella.
“Is that what it’s called?” said Fenella. “I thought it was bad temper.”
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