‘Howl's Moving Castle’
Diana Wynne Jones
1992 Metheun 212pp SB
‘In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three.”
This is the book that proves that J.K.Rowling is the luckiest woman alive. Originally published in 1986, the version I have is at least the 5th edition and Why Ms Wynne Jones is not richer that the queen is a Complete Mystery. Ms Wynne Jones has an impressive list of titles and a visit to her web site is evidence of her high appeal.
Now, I have to admit that while I may have read her books before, I only found ‘Howls Moving Castle’ in a second hand store last week and is the first one I owned. I knew of the title as the new movie by (sigh) Hayao Miyazaki. The esteemed Japanese director of the glorious ‘Spirited Away’ and ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ completed the animated version last year and apparently Madman might release it here later this year. It has great reviews, but I did not know that it was based on an English book. I feel Shame.
Sophie is the Heroine of this story – eldest of three thus doomed to an unlucky/unexciting life “..she was not even the child of a poor woodcutter, which might have given her some chance of success..” , she is trimming hats when a misunderstanding with a wicked witch changes her life. There is humour, adventure, good guys, bad guys, bad guys who turn out good, good guys who turn out bad, magic and such a sweet, sweet ending that more that one tear was shed, let me tell you.
It is just so well written – I read it in one evening and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. The writing is so rich and descriptive and the world so charmingly and artfully created – it is a book to thoroughly immerse yourself in. Ideal to read to children; whilst simple enough for the little ones, there is more than enough depth and subtlety in the strongly drawn characters and situations to satisfy the adult imagination. Miyazaki does a wonderful line in strong female characters and I can see why young Sophie Hatter caught his eye.
I now own two other books (in 1992 there were at least 12 others) by this wonderful author – Stay tuned!