Monday, 21 May 2012

Howl's Moving Castle - Diana Wynne Jones

If you're a fan of Hayao Miyazaki (and you should be), then you are familiar with the title of this 1986 YA classic. In 2004, Studio Ghibli released their movie version of the book and we ate it up. It was a lovely movie, full of fantastical images and classic Miyazaki moments. Entranced by the movie, I, of course, sought out the novel. And it's better.

Howl's Moving Castle was inspired by two things: firstly, Jones stated that she wanted to write a book where fairytales were real and just a facet of everyday life and secondly, one day a boy in a class she was speaking to asked her to write a story about a castle that moved. Combining the two turned out to be a wonderful idea.

Our heroine is Sophie, a young hat maker and oldest of three sisters. Due to the fairytale nature of their world, Sophie knows that, as the eldest, she is destined to fail the hardest at any quest she sets out on and won't be blessed with any riches or magic, so she contents herself with working in the family hat shop.

One day, however, as she works, the fearsome Witch of the Waste comes to confront her, although as far as Sophie knows, she hasn't done anything worthy of notice. Regardless, the witch puts a spell on Sophie, transforming her into an old woman. Not able to tell anyone about the spell she's under and knowing she can't stay home, Sophie sets off to find a way to break the spell, or at the very least, find a nice place for an old woman to relax.

As she goes out, however, she notices Wizard Howl's moving castle on the heath. Wizard Howl is notoriously wicked and is rumored to eat girls' hearts. But Sophie's an old woman now. Surely he won't be interested in hers. And the fire seems so cozy….

Sophie is a ridiculously lovable protagonist that grows into her own as the book progresses. Howl, our hero (?), is just as lovable in the completely opposite way, a drama queen of a wizard and surprisingly Welsh. Beyond them, there is an expansive and lovely list of side characters who all have memorable personalities and interesting plot lines. From the dog man without a head to the apprentice in love with the cake shop attendant, or, my personal favorite, the Count of Catterack, each character is very fleshed out and adds to Jones's magical world.

I must have read Howl's Moving Castle at least four or five times. It's a very fast, very easy read but it's just comfortable, like watching a favorite movie when you're sick. It may not change your view on life but it will definitely make you smile. If you don't come out of it loving Howl and having a bit of a girl crush on Sophie, you're doing it wrong. And I don't think you exist.

P.S. Completely unplanned, my friend Lizzy posted a review of this yesterday. Check it out!

1 comment:

  1. Miyazaki's film is one of my favourites, I'm ashamed to not have read this yet! Really should get my hands on a copy...