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Sunday, September 20, 2009

cover of Howl's Moving Castle
The delightful story of Sophie, Howl, and Calcifer. In a magic, fairy-tale land where seven-league boots actually exist (although they are demonstrated to be difficult to control when your balance is very good), Sophie doesn’t ever bother to seek out her fortune because she knows as the oldest of three sisters, she is destined to fail first and worst. Her sisters aren’t afraid to seek out what they want (even to the extent of deceiving their mother to trade places), but Sophie stays where she is. Only when she is cursed into old age does she venture out, and her “disguise” as an old woman gives her a new kind of freedom-- she isn’t afraid, she’s more willing to speak out and do what she wants, even to the extent of forcing herself into the castle of the wizard Howl as his housekeeper. Howl is selfish, vain, slapdash, and heartless (literally, in a way, because of his contract with Calcifer that Sophie is supposed to be trying to figure out and break), and yet he is also sweet, quite thoughtful at times, and tenderhearted. Of course, it is Sophie’s qualities as an older sister that make her capable of dealing with Howl-- when he has a tantrum of green slime, she and Michael push him to the bathroom and dump him in the tub, and Sophie mops up the slime that is everywhere.

Sophie’s magic is wonderful-- so human, and natural. She talks to the hats she decorates because she’s lonely, and doesn’t even notice for quite a while that her words seem to come true. Calcifer tells her that she was the one he asked to break the contract between him and Howl because she "talks life into things", and he thought that she might be the only one who could break the contract without killing one or both of them.

I finally got to see Hayao Miyazaki’s film version of this story a few months ago-- it is delightful, and beautiful, and catches some aspects of this book quite wonderfully-- although it is also strange how the film tells a rather different story than the book, even though they share so many of the same pieces. Reading the book again made me want to watch the movie again, and watching the movie again makes me want to re-read the book-- they are both so well-done and beautiful, I think this could result in an endless loop if I’m not careful.

Title:Howl's Moving Castle
Author:Diana Wynne Jones
Date published:1986
Genre:Young Adult Fantasy
Number of pages:329
Notes:repeat reading


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