Howl’s Moving Castle
by Diana Wynne Jones
Harper Trophy, 1986
Source: public library
Many moons ago I found out that Jenny at Jenny’s Books was hosting a Diana Wynne Jones Week the first week of August. This excited me a great deal, and I figured it would be the perfect introduction to an author I had been meaning to read for awhile. I made a mental note to myself to check out a few of her books in mid-July so I would be all ready to go when August hit.
Okay, so the mental note got lost. By the time I remembered* it was already Monday, Day 2 of Diana Wynne Jones Week, and by the time Howl’s Moving Castle arrived at the library it was Saturday, Day 7 of Diana Wynne Jones Week.
But I read it anyway. In one day (Tuesday). In fact, even though I had been awake since 5 AM, (for the second day in a row; ugh), I stayed up until 11:30 PM to finish it. (I tried to stop reading. Really, I did. But the book was glued to my hand.) Even now I can’t seem to write this post because I keep picking it up and rereading it. Let’s see, if I just toss it to the other end of the couch . . . ahhh, better. (For now.)
So. On to Howl’s Moving Castle. First of all, I loved the fairy tale elements. (I’m a sucker for a well-told fairy tale.) More than that, I loved that Jones made her characters aware of those elements. The opening paragraph reads:
In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.
Sidenote: I almost stopped reading at this point so I could call my younger brothers and share this tidbit with them. “Great news, guys! You can go out and seek your fortunes worry-free! I’m the one who’s going to fail!” Unfortunately for them, though, I’m not the eldest of three, I’m the eldest of four, and four’s not a particularly significant number. Oh! But I’m the eldest with three brothers! Wonder if that means anything?
I also loved Sophie. Loved her tantrum involving the weed-killer, loved how she went around talking life into things for forever before she realized could do it, loved her cranky old lady side. I recognized a piece of myself in her, too, although not an especially flattering piece. Before Howl pointed it out to Sophie, I had suspected for some time that she was preventing herself from escaping the spell she was under and was using it as a shield. It was during this exchange, however, that I realized that I would have behaved the exact same way. Drat. I really hate self-awareness sometimes.
So sign me up: I am officially a Diana Wynne Jones fan. And as soon as I’m less sleep-deprived I’m consulting Jenny’s lists (here and here) to see which book I should read next. Oh, hurray for discovering great authors after they’ve written a zillion books! I now have lots of reading ahead of me. Bliss, bliss, bliss.
Another sidenote: I feel I should take this moment to say that Diana Wynne Jones Week is how I came to read Jenny’s blog in the first place. Nymeth at things mean a lot mentioned it on her blog, so I clicked on over and got totally hooked on Jenny’s blog. Which, by the way, is exactly how I had come to things mean a lot: Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Books had mentioned one of Nymeth’s posts, so over I went and hooked I got. For the life of me, though, I can’t remember how I found Birdbrain(ed) Books. (And yes, I realize I just totally set myself up there. See if you can resist calling me a birdbrain. My three delightful younger brothers wouldn’t!)
Okay, I’m off to hide Howl’s Moving Castle before I stay up reading it again. And maybe now I’ll go to bed. Because clearly I need sleep.
*And yes, I am well aware that Jenny has a giant DWJ Week button on her blog. I saw (and admired) it every time I stopped by. In my defense: I have toast for brains.
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