“I hope your bacon burns.” – “Calcifer” (Diana Wynne Jones)Nineteen year old Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three daughters working in a little hat shop with her father and step-mother. After her father dies, Sophie’s step-mother arranges for the two younger daughters to apprentice with a witch and at a bakery while Sophie learns the trade of the hat shop. Being the eldest of three daughters, Sophie is very aware how she would be destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek a fortune or even an adventure! It is the misfortune of being the eldest, and she is resigned to her fate, living less than successfully while working in the family hat shop. However as she is trimming hats and growing quite lonely being the only one working on them all through the day and night. To combat this loneliness she starts talking to the hats as she makes them; telling them they’re beautiful or that if someone wore this hat “they would most certainly marry into money”, just little compliments to help make her hats better. This action, though small, ended up unwittingly attracting the Witch of the Waste, and ends up angering her. Poor Sophie finds herself under an unpleasant spell that transforms her into a ninety year old lady. Unsure what to do, Sophie heads out, albeit quite slowly (her bones are aching her most terribly!), and seeks the dreaded wizard Howl who lives in the moving castle in the hills. Though frightened of Howl, who was rumored to eat young, beautiful women’s hearts, Sophie, thinking that she must be safe from him since she was neither young nor beautiful, asks to be hired on as a cleaning lady by Howl. Pretty soon, the eldest child is on a whirlwind of an adventure with the dreaded wizard Howl, moving castles, fire demons, the Wicked Witch of the Waste and a mysterious missing person’s case. Now, if only she could reverse the curse?
I’m sure many of you know about the movie Howl’s Moving Castle but let me tell you, the movie is nothing like the book! While I loved the movie to the point where I could watch it over and over again- the book stole my heart and shared it with a fire demon. 🙂 Let me explain: The characters are well thought out, wonderful and oh so easy to like! Sophie, who’ll probably be one of my favorite heroine’s in a book, is snappy, stubborn, willful and hilarious. She makes you wish you were an old woman too so you could be irritable and bossy without getting in trouble! Howl is everything you could possibly think of a sweet and brilliant yet extremely vain and thoughtless wizard. He has just enough mysteriousness that his actions seem self-centered when in reality, he isn’t.
Those of you who are Jane Austen fans will notice how the narrative “voice” is very similar. It’s a charming, Victorian-like prose that may take it’s time to get to the action but ends up helping the readers be drawn deeper into its pages. The writing is clear and helps you to really feel the characters and understand all that the author is portraying through every detail of writing. (By the way: The chapter headings? Completely amused me! 🙂 )
Overall, Howl’s Moving Castle is a fun, engaging, magical book. It’s unique style and strange world makes it enjoyable for all ages. I recommend it to everyone and anyone. Especially those who loved the movie or didn’t love the movie, loves fantasy/magic books, humorous characters, sassy heroines and vain heroes. I give Howl’s Moving Castle 5 out of 5 stars! (Yes, it was that amazing!)
Have you read Howl’s Moving Castle? Or did you just watch the movie? What did you think?