Book review

Eight Days of Luke by Diana Wynne Jones (1975)

David's in for a bit of a rotten summer break from boarding school. Having no-one else, he lives with his Great Aunt Dot, Great Uncle Bernard, Cousin Ronald and Cousin Ronald's wife Astrid. He doesn't like them, and they don't like him. Usually, Great Aunt Dot manages the situation by sending David off to camp, or some such thing, but this year she forgets! Horror! They are all going to have to actually live under the same roof.

David knew it would never work. He's hardly been in the house twenty-four hours before he is banished from the lunch table, quivering with indignation and rage. At the very least he needs to set a curse on the whole lot of them. So that is what he does:

At last he found the best combination of all. He could really almost believe it was words, fierce, terrible words. They asked to be said. And they asked to be said, too, in an important, impressive way, loudly, from somewhere high up. David climbed to the top of the compost heap, crushing baby marrows underfoot, and, leaning on the handle of the spade, he stretched the other hand skywards and recited his words. Afterwards, he never remembered what they were. He knew they were magnificent, but he forgot them as soon as he said them. And when he had spoken them, for good measure, he picked up a handful of compost and bowled it at the wall.
As soon as he did that, the wall started to fall down.

Quite a powerful curse, then, by accident. Not only does it produce a fair amount of upheaval in the immediate area of the garden, but suddenly, there seems to be another boy on his side, helping David beat off the snakes. (Yes, snakes. It was quite a curse.)

This is Luke, and David really warms to Luke. After all, a friend is just what David needs. It's brilliant. Luke really does seem to be able to appear just when David needs him. And he's awfully good at ingratiating himself with David's relatives. But David slowly begins to wonder exactly what kind of friend Luke is, and comes to two important conclusions:

One was that Luke did not operate by the same rules as other people. The other was that, if so, Luke was something of a responsibility. He was great fun, but David was going to have to be careful what he said to him in future.

Now, where exactly did Luke come from, that day when David chanted his make-believe curse? Luke says he was being held in prison, wrongly, and is terribly grateful to David for releasing him. David isn't inclined to believe that, of course. But there do seem to be some very strange characters hanging round the neighbourhood ... Perhaps they really are all after Luke.

Well, what are friends for? David decides to help Luke defend himself against his enemies. You will have to read the book to see what kind of magical adventures he has, but it does work out really well for everyone in the end - especially David.

Now, if you are really familiar with your Norse mythology you will have spotted the clues as you read along and will not be surprised to find at the end of the book that Luke is really the ancient Norse god Loki, and Mr Wednesday is Woden. If you didn't spot the clues, don't be dismayed. It doesn't matter if the author was writing two stories and you were only reading one, as long as you really enjoyed the one story you were reading.

What can I read next?

Diana Wynne Jones has written many books, some for older readers and some for younger ones. You could look at:

  • Dogsbody
  • Power of Three

If you like the idea of having a genie for a friend, you might enjoy Robert Leeson's book:

You could look at this trilogy by William Nicholson:

Or this one by Louis Sachar:

Alan Temperley might interest you. There is a choice of three titles:

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