Have you ever avoided authors, books…, things, because someone you know is obsessed with them? Both my sisters love Diana Wynne Jones, and for that silly reason I’ve never wanted to read any of her books. I’ve avoided her for years, YEARS! Especially post Harry Potter when I couldn’t handle any more fantasy (frankly, even if I could have read more fantasy nothing would have compared).
The only reason I decided to even read Howls’ Moving Castle last week was because a) my sister was getting rid of the book and b) my book buying ban made me desperate.
The animated adaptation is one of my favourite films (I worship at the altar of Ghibli) and I was very relieved to find the book and film far from comparable. Although, book Sophie has more Oomph to her.
‘Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.’ GoodReads.
As the eldest of three, prone to following rules and feeling an immense sense of duty and guilt, this book really panders to my ability to feel sorry for myself. I knew from page one that this would be a book for me. Sophie is the eldest of three sisters, and in Middle Chipping this is far from an advantage. Sophie is a shy and conciliating woman, watching her life pass by. Overwhelmed by the world, it takes a curse from the Witch of the Waste to thrust Sophie into an adventure. As an old woman Sophie can take the risks she wouldn’t have dared to otherwise.
There is far more to the story that Sophie, however Sophie is the only character that comes fully formed. Normally this would frustrate me, but for a children’s book it felt natural for certain characters to lack depth. I was pleased that the Witch of the Waste was villainous, unlike the Ghibli version, her unrelenting chase pushed the story forward.
Sophie’s frustration and outbursts were both hilarious and sympathetic, Howl became as annoying to me as her, and were I able to reach into the novel I would certainly give his room a good clean! Howl and Sophie are complete opposites, both push the other to be better.
As wonderful as Sophie is as a strong female character – in fact the book is far from lacking those – the romantic side of the story disappointed me. The romantic conclusion undermined Sophie’s independence and cemented her into a role I found uncomfortable. I thought it could have ended with far less love, but hey, I’m dead inside.