Sophie Hatter is the oldest of three sisters which means that she is destined to never find success, while her milddle sister Lettie will go on an adventure and her youngest sister Martha will marry rich. But at least Sophie is really good with a needle and thread and so she stays behind with her stepmother Fanny and spends her days making hats. But things change quickly when the Witch of the Waste comes to her shop and curses her, turning her very old. Sophie decides to leave town and happens upon the moving castle of Wizard Howl, rumored to eat the hearts of young women. But Sophie is old now and she believes her best chances to have the curse lifted lie with Howl, so she stays.
I have seen the movie adaptation quite a few times already (in fact, I think that it might be the first Ghibli movie I ever saw) and I actually only noticed the second time around or so that it was based on a book. I also only just realized that the book is actually part of a series. Oh well. So it goes.
In any case, I really enjoyed Howl’s Moving Castle that manages to sidestep all kinds of seemingly ubiquitous and unavoidable genre rules and tropes. It was a fun read, even if I sometimes felt like I was missing some things.
Much like The Last Unicorn, the narrative structure of Howl’s Moving Castle seems something grown rather than something planned and built – which makes a huge part of the book’s charm, but it also sometimes makes things a little difficult to understand at least at first reading. For example, I’m still very hazy about how things are supposed to work regarding Howl’s original world and Sophie’s world.
The book becomes even more adventurous and unusual through its protagonists. Both Sophie and Howl (and even Calcifer) have personalities like we don’t usually get to see them in protagonists of stories. It’s a bit like Jones took the designated supporting characters and made them the heroes and heroines for a change – and it is beautifully done.
Speaking of supporting characters, I really loved Sophie’s sister and her stepmother and the relationships they have with each other. I wonder why that part was excluded in the film version. Though the movie is generally surprisingly far away from the book, especially when it comes to the characters that it leaves out. [I really want to re-watch ther film now. I hope I get to it soon.]
It was a very nice book with great characters and a nice approach to genre. Now that I know that it is actually part of a series, I really have to read the rest.