Witch Week is the third book (fourth chronologically) in the Chronicles of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones. It was published in 1982 by Greenwillow.
“Someone in 6B is a witch. And, in the alternate reality described in Diana Wynne Jones’s Witch Week, that’s not at all a good thing to be. Jones plunks her readers directly into the life of Larwood House, a school in a present-day England that’s a lot like the world we know, except for one major difference: witches are everywhere, and they are ruthlessly hunted by inquisitors. With witty, erudite writing, Jones tells of the adventures of the class of 6B as they set about to discover who among them is a witch. Clearly it’s not the popular Simon or the perfect Theresa. Could it be fat Nan or sluggish Charles? Mysterious Nirupam or shifty-eyed Brian?”
What I Liked:
Witch Week is perhaps my least favorite book in the Chronicles of Chrestomanci. That being said, I love Chrestomanci’s appearance in this book. His reprimands to the students who sought him out, and in fact, his entire dealings with them were spot-on and satisfying, if only because here, at last, is someone who can handle them. I love this passage: “[Chrestomanci] seemed astounded, and not vague at all. The room seemed to go very quiet and sinister and unloving” (Jones 480). When Chrestomanci is not vague, that is the time to pay attention to what he is saying or doing.
I also like how the problem was resolved. It was essentially turning a bad, destructive thing into a good thing. What previously could have torn apart the world fixed it, instead. And everything leading up to it was great, as well, especially Charles’s turn-around. And the last few sentences of the book were a great parallel to the beginning. I also found it hilarious that nearly everyone in the classroom was a witch. Essentially, I liked everything in the book after Chrestomanci showed up. I also liked seeing the school life, and Nan was probably my favorite, if I had to pick, although Nirupam is up there, too.
“The note said: SOMEONE IN THIS CLASS IS A WITCH” is the best way to start a book ever.
Also, I think Jones is hinting that Charles is the one who saved Brian’s mother.
What I Didn’t Like:
Ugh, the students. Especially Charles and Brian. Charles is okay, at first, but towards the end he’s just mean, and arrogant, and really, really stubborn. He’s ornery for the sake of being ornery. Brian is whiny and a bit arrogant, as well. I got sick of Charles, towards the end, and once Brian started playing a bigger role, I got sick of him, too.
The book has a good start, and a great end, but the middle really just drags a bit, and Charles gets more and more irritating with every viewpoint (and his attitude towards “Simon Says” is just awful). I started disliking him when Simon says “Drop dead” to Theresa and Charles thinks it’s a pity that the truth spell doesn’t work anymore. Really? Chrestomanci was right, you weren’t thinking, Charles.
Witch Week also lacks some of the humor and charm that I love about Jones’s works.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
As Nan levered loose the first greasy ring of potato, the urge to describe came upon her again. It was as if she was possessed. “Now the aim of this dish,” she said, “is to use up leftovers. You take old potatoes and soak them in washing-up water that has been used at least twice. The water must be thoroughly scummy.” It’s like the gift of tongues! She thought. Only in my case it’s the gift of foul-mouth. “Then you take a dirty old tin and rub it around with socks that have been worn for a fortnight. You fill this tin with alternate layers of scummy potatoes and catfood, mixed with anything else you happen to have. Old doughnuts and dead flies have been used in this case—”
“Now the geography of Finland is very much affected by the last Ice Age. Simon, what happens in an Ice Age?”
Simon dragged his mind away from dreams of gold and glory. “Everything is very cold,” he said. A blast of cold air swept through the room, making everyone’s teeth chatter. “And goes on getting colder, I suppose,” Simon added unwisely. The air in the room swiftly became icy. 6B’s breath rolled out in steam. The windows misted over and froze, almost at once, into frosty patterns. Icicles began to grow under the radiators. Frost whitened the desks.
There was a chorus of shivers and groans, and Nirupam hissed, “Watch it!”
“I mean everything gets very hot,” Simon said hastily.
Before Mr. Crossley had time to wonder why he was shivering, the cold was replaced by tropical heat.
Witch Week is not my favorite Chrestomanci novel. In fact, it’s probably my least favorite. Everything after Chrestomanci shows up is great, but everything before that is a little tedious and hard to get through, especially when Charles gets more and more nasty (although the part where I disliked Charles the most is when Chrestomanci shows up). The ending almost makes up for it. Almost.
You can buy this book here: Witch Week
Coming Up Next: The Magicians of Caprona