It feels as though it has been months since I have written something, and the feeling is driving me crazy. I have been reading so many good books. Keeping them all to myself is a crime! So, today, after quite a hiatus, we are venturing off into Wales and from there, to a fantastic, imaginary land. The land of Ingary is the setting of Diana Wynne Jones’ novel Howl’s Moving Castle.
Sophie, the daughter of a hat-shop owner, has always labored under the impression that she will never amount to anything. She works in her deceased father’s shop under her rather frivolous stepmother until the Witch of the Waste casts a curse upon her. Sophie is forced to leave her hometown in search of someone who can help her break the curse. After meeting the handsome and mysterious Wizard Howl on her quest, Sophie realizes that even he cannot help her. She must overcome the curse on her own. Low self-worth stands in the way of reclaiming her life and saving her friends from the Witch of the Waste.
I was first introduced to Howl’s moving castle through Hayao Miyazaki’s film adaptation. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, the movie is delightful. Miyazaki has a knack for creating beautiful and imaginative settings, although he did have Diana Wynne Jones’ setup from which to work. I would highly recommend this movie for all ages. I cannot get enough of it.
The book is equally good, but I must say that I wish I had read it before seeing the movie. I did not even know it was a book until this past summer! As I read, I could only imagine Sophie’s voice as it was in the film (not my favorite voice actor). Jones did, however, create a beautiful picture of the land of Ingary, which was rich in different ways from the film. It also gave extra insight into each of the characters’ lives and contained well-crafted plot twists.
My only issue with the novel is that the dialogue sometimes seemed flat and unnatural… But at other times it was fine.
What I appreciated even more than the rich setting and imagery was the underlying issues faced by the characters. Sophie’s struggle to overcome the idea that she would never amount to anything was subtle, but spoke to me, as I am sure it would to younger readers. Sophie’s sisters also faced challenges. They were forced into careers by their mother as well and took matters into their own hands in order to assure their happiness. Howl and his apprentice, Michael, encountered struggles of the heart, although Michael’s were significantly more obvious than Howl’s. Calcifer, Howl’s fire demon, sought freedom.
I am currently obsessed with Young Adult literature. (Please forgive my gushing.) Finding quality books to use in my future classroom is my goal, but I also love stories of children who face challenges and grow because of them.
Two thumbs up for Howl’s Moving Castle! An excellent story for readers of all ages. I might be a bit biased because of how much I love the movie, but you cannot go wrong here, especially if you love fantasy. Fans of the film will, I believe, particularly enjoy this novel.
P.S. If you are interested in what I am reading this semester, please check out my About page! I will have a post later in the week with lists for both semesters. (The Book Thief is included, as well as The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.)