Wednesday, June 08, 2011
Review: Howl's Moving Castle
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
How often are we our own problem? How often do our own beliefs -- about ourselves, about our world, and about what our lives will be -- stand like a wall between us and what we really want?
This is the essential conundrum facing Sophie, the protagonist in Howl's Moving Castle. She's a young woman living in a world where fairy tales and magic are a part of everyday life, and she has very firm -- and very self-defeating -- ideas about all of it. The eldest of three sisters, helping her stepmother run the hat shop her father left them, Sophie believes her life is all about sacrifice and messing things up. Fate is against her, she thinks. She'll always make mistakes and she will never achieve anything worthwhile.
Oh boy, is she wrong. But it takes her a lot of mistakes, worrying, misunderstanding, love, and courage for her to learn to see herself and the world around her in new ways.
That's what I love best about this book, this transformation of a young woman. Sophie is a marvelous character, someone a reader can relate to no matter what age the reader is. We all get in our own way, and we all struggle to realize it. Sophie's adventures with the Wizard Howl and his magical castle serve to help her grow and mature. The book itself is --oh, that most terrible of words -- charming, as if it cast its own spell.
It's not quite a perfect book. As with many books written for a young adult audience, it gets in a big hurry to end as fast as it can after the climactic action. Some questions are never answered (and, potentially, never should be). Some of the secondary characters are a bit thinner than I like. Then again, I found this book as an adult, and it isn't required to live up to my adult expectations.
One warning -- if you've seen the Miyazaki movie, this is NOT the same story. Miyazaki took elements from the book to illustrate his own story, and the two are only superficially related. I've seen the Miyazaki version several times and it's very wonderful, but it is not the book. The book is, in so many ways, a much superior story.
6/8/11 Good gravy on a stick but I enjoy this book! This time, of course, I saw a few new things -- like a harkening back to what irritated me so much when I read The Mysteries of Udolpho in the poor communication, the assumptions, and failure to think of things instead of reacting in fear because they are strange or unknown. Still, much better here!
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