Alice Stevenson


Fire & Hemlock


Today my oldest and dearest friend Elinor Cook and I are guests on the excellent Backlisted Podcast talking about our favourite book "Fire and Hemlock" by Diana Wynne Jones. This is a very important book to us, and having the opportunity to talk about it together was both an honour and delight. Below is an extract from the email we sent to Backlisted suggesting the book which hopefully goes some way to express what this book means to us. You can listen to the episode here:

"We first read “Fire and Hemlock” when we were eleven or twelve, and we both re-read it every year or so. We have since gone on to read widely but it is still our favourite book. It is sophisticated, subtle and thematically complex but I think for both of us, it is the interplay between the mundane and often sad, every day reality of the book with the strange and complex fantasy of it, which makes it such a brilliant story. It is deeply emotionally charged but also very down to earth and unsentimental and has such a haunting atmosphere of melancholy and longing throughout. Neither of us have ever quite found its equal anywhere else in this regard.

We find that we rarely meet people who have read it, but when we do they tend to be evangelical about it. For example, I recently I posted a picture of it on instagram and an acquaintance responded enthusiastically, that she had written an essay about it on her MA. Whilst it has remained in print since publication, we feel that it is such an extraordinary book, it really deserves to be better known.

Elinor and I have been best friends since before we could walk, we spent our childhoods drawing, writing and performing plays together. In our adult guises as an illustrator and author (me) and playwright (Elinor), we continue to be the closest of friends, and creative mentors for each other. Our shared love for this book is a thread that runs through the history of our friendship and has had a profound influence on both our careers in direct and indirect ways. In some way we are both always looking to recreate or capture the feeling of this book. We would be delighted to join you on your excellent podcast to sing its praises."

Elinor and I expressing our unique creativity at a young age.

Elinor and I expressing our unique creativity at a young age.