In which a witch bewitched the hatter’s daughter – and then some….
Sophie lived in the town of Market Chipping, which was in Ingary, a land in which anything could happen, and often did – especially when the Witch of the Waste got her dander up. Which was often.
As her younger sisters set out to seek their fortunes, Sophie stayed in her father’s hat shop. Which proved most unadventurous, until the Witch of the Waste came in to buy a bonnet, but was not pleased. Which is why she turned Sophie into an old lady. Which was spiteful witchery.
Now Sophie must seek her own fortune. Which means striking a bargain with the lecherous Wizard Howl. Which means entering his ever-moving castle, taming a blue fire-demon, and meeting the Witch of the Waste head-on. Which was more than Sophie bargained for….*
I was very excited to read this book. I absolutely loved the film version by Hayao Miyazaki, and the gorgeous soundtrack by Joe Hisaishi. I think I’ve played the main theme a couple hundred times already since I watched the film earlier this year, because if there’s something I’m a sucker for more than beautiful writing, its beautiful music (I’m actually writing this with it playing on repeat in the background, teehee). I really can’t get enough of the music. Despite my excitement, for some reason, I kept putting off reading the book – even though I got my copy in May – until this month. I think I saved this because of the holidays, which would give off the magical atmosphere I would very much prefer in reading a book like this.
Howl’s Moving Castle stirred somewhat lukewarm feelings within me at first, because I was expecting it to have the same effect on me as the film had. The film version was more exciting and dramatic, definitely, but then I realized that it wouldn’t be fair to judge a book by its movie. I’m very okay with judging a film by its book, but vice versa? It just feels weird, so I decided to try reading Howl’s Moving Castle with a mind that wasn’t familiar with it. It worked. I enjoyed reading about Howl and Sophie, and I felt like a child again. Gosh, how I missed reading fantasy that didn’t have such convoluted plots!
I really loved the characters. I am absolutely amused by Howl, the entertainment factor of which helped me in rating this book. He is so vain and conscious of his appearance that I sometimes want to throw a fit and make green slime myself (because no one, and I mean NO ONE, should take that long in the bathroom EVERY DAY sheesh) but also very scatter-brained everywhere else, so the results are just hilarious. I keep imagining the events in the book transpire with the film characters* and I am all laughey-dovey for hours. Well okay, minutes, but you know. He started to grow on me somewhat because of those moments. Also, let me just mention how I admire Sophie very much. For someone in a granny’s body, she is everywhere! I would like to be like her, (still) sassy and full of energy when I am ninety, if ever I do reach that age. I also love how determined she is when she is set to do something. She’s like, “Oh, I’m an eldest kid so I can’t be exciting? Qurl, Imma find my fortune and prove y’all wrong. I’m sorry, being ninety all of a sudden just ain’t enough, so lemme see if I can poke the Wizard Howl’s eye or summat.” That’s the impression her character made on me. So sassy. I love it. (For some reason, I remembered McGonagall, and by association, Dame Maggie Smith. She would make a perfect Sophie, I’d say!)
Overall, I really liked this book. Despite Howl’s vanity and Sophie’s stubbornness, I found myself rooting for them until the very end. It was a very cute story, whimsical in a way that makes you remember all those fairy tales you used to read as a little child. It’s got a very simple plot, but it has its very own charm, which is why I have no doubt many readers will enjoy this. This is the first novel I’ve read by Diana Wynne Jones. I’ve read a short story of hers in Firebirds, and I enjoyed her writing even then, so I wouldn’t say no to reading more of her works.
*okay, maybe I failed in the complete separation of film and book part, but hey, I still liked the book!
Now I want to watch the film again. Or any Studio Ghibli film, for that matter.
In a nutshell…
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Original Language: English