Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bookanistas Book Review: Howl's Moving Castle


Last night I was sitting at IHOP (as I do on Wednesday nights after my writer's group) and I mentioned that I had just reread Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones after I discovered a tattered and much perused copy at a second hand bookstore. "Aw!" said my friend. "I love that book!" And we immediately launched into rhapsody's about the Wizard Howl. (More on that rascal in a minute.)

But it was my friend Lynn who introduced me to this book in this way back when we were in college (or then abouts): It's about Sophie, a girl who is turned into an old woman by a spell, and she goes to live in a wizard's (moving) castle and she cleans for him, and she is strong willed and awesome and he falls in love with her no matter what she looks like but he's under a spell, too and Sophie has to sort that out so they can save the kingdom together.

And I said: "She's an old woman? Eiew. I don't want to read about that." (Only maybe not to her face.)
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Well, my friend Lynn had pretty good taste in other matters (she was my friend, after all). So I decided to read other Diana Wynne Jones books. And then I read Howl's Moving Castle.

What a delightful book. Everything about it is charming, from the voice to the characters to the magic. It's witty in it's language and deft in it's plot turns. Jones is so good at planting seeds that will sprout at just the right moment to become useful. There's a droll British understatement to the narration. Jones doesn't oversell her points or hammer her humor. She just lets them develop naturally.

But on rereading this book, I have to say that what sets it apart from more recent books (HMC was published in 1986), and what makes it so very worth reading if you have not, is the characters. Sophie is marvelous. As the oldest of three, she accepts that she's doomed to fail in finding her fortune. (Everyone knows only the youngest will succeed.) But her physical transformation sets her off on an adventure and quickly transforms her inside. She's bossy and nosy (because old people are allowed to be) and she gets things done. (She doesn't always make the right decision, but by goodness, she makes one.)

Then there's Howl. He's vain and feckless and droll and when it comes right down to it, decent and kind. Most of all, he's multi-faceted and interesting. There is nothing generic about either of these characters. They're quirky and cranky and brave, and utterly unique.

There is actually a rather lovely movie adaptation of this book that is worth watching, but you are seriously missing a treat if you don't read this book. The voice and narration are the most delightful part of "Howl's Moving Castle" (and of Diana Wynn Jones in general).

What else are the Bookanistas posting about today? See for yourself:


Sarah Frances Hardy is nuts for THE NINTH WARD                     

7 comments:

  1. This sounds like it would be a great one for my daughter. And, I'd like to read something written a while back ...

    sf

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  2. One of my absolute favorite books.

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  3. Cool! Thanks! Unfortunately it's not out on kindle yet but I got the audio version from Audible. Not the same but instant gratification nonetheless and I have no idea when I can get to a bookstore or the library in the next few weeks. I can't wait!

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  4. I own this book and love it to bits! I even love the movie, in spite of its many differences. Such a great review!

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  5. Don't you love it when a book takes you by surprise like that? Definitely a must read. Haven't seen the movie, but I'd like to! Great review!

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  6. I would be so happy with blogger if they would have threaded comments so that I could reply directly. Do you hear me, Blogger?

    SF-- This is a great book to give to a daughter, neice, whomever. It's sweet and funny, and not at all angsty. Great, strong heroine. And though it's older and not "fashionable" (ie, no angst, fallen angels or vampires) , it reads more as timeless and not old fashioned. Much more like Harry Potter.

    Laughing Paws -- I think the audible book might be really nifty on th is one, because of the very Britishness of the narrative voice. It has a very 'storytelling' quality and I could hear it in my head... I'm not explaining this well. But I hope you enjoy!

    Audrey-- That doesn't surprise me at all! I knew you had good taste.

    Bethany-- yes! I really enjoyed the movie, too. Good example of how an adaptation can be a successful translation even if its not identical to the book.

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  7. Oooh, I haven't read this yet but it sounds amazing! I'm going to add it to my (massive) TBR pile.

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