By Rebecca Manuel
So, I’ve been thinking for a while that it would be nice to start a book recommendations/reviews column. I was going to do this as a sub-column for the Wordslingin’ column, but Jacqueline very kindly offered to let me start a new column instead! And so I present to you, A Novel Idea. Now, on to the book recommendation!
Let’s get a show of hands for how many people have seen the Ghibli/Miyazaki movie, Howl’s Moving Castle! Well, since I can’t see you, let’s just assume many, if not most, of you raised your hand.
Now, how many of you have read the book Howl’s Moving Castle? I’ll bet the number is fewer than the number of those who’ve seen the movie. In fact, I did a quick Facebook poll a while ago just to get an idea for how many of you have either read the book, seen the film, or both, and about four of the limited few who responded to the poll responded that they had only seen the film, and NO ONE had only read the book.
While Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle has been hugely popular – it comes up first in the results of a quick Google search – I’ve known only a few people who have actually read the book and maybe no one who had read the book before seeing the film. Why is this? I have no idea, but I’m here to enlighten you all about the wonderfulness of this book.
The book, written by British author Diana Wynne Jones, was published in 1986 and slowly rose from obscurity until, twenty years later, it won the Phoenix Award, which is an award given to children’s literature twenty years after publication that was not recognized before. It is quirky, fun, and lighthearted, and despite being classified as a children’s book, it can appeal to all age groups (it certainly still appeals to me).
I always loved the movie, but after I read the book, I have to say that the movie seems a bit disappointing in comparison. The direction of the plot is drastically different from the book. The plot of the film latches on to a minor, background plot of the book; somewhere around the middle of the book, the king of the fictional kingdom of Ingary mentions that they will most likely be going to war soon with a couple of the surrounding countries. The movie expands on this, and thus one of the major plot elements is the war.
However, this never becomes a major plot line of the book and is mentioned only that once that I remember. Instead, the book is much more character-driven. It focuses on the interactions of the characters, of which there are more than in the film. It also focuses on the unconventional love story of Howl and Sophie, of which there includes much more bickering and banter than in the film. And the key conflict of the book is not war, but the Witch of the Waste’s curse on Howl, which doesn’t even exist in the film. This book, apart from being, in my opinion, better than the movie (which is saying something because, despite all my criticism, the movie is still fantastic), is not just wonderful in comparison: it is one of my favorite books ever. The fascinating characters, the bright, quirky tone, the eventual conclusion, and the following books – because, yes, there are more (although Howl and Sophie are not the primary characters) – all make this book a delightful read. I hope you read it and agree.
To buy it for Kindle, go here: Howl’s Moving Castle
For other books by Diana Wynne Jones, including HMC’s sequels, go here: Diana Wynne Jones
If you do read it, or if you have a different book that you’d like to recommend, please send your thoughts/review to: firstname.lastname@example.org. This is Rebecca signing off. Over and out!