Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I feel like I've done myself a disservice by having watched the Miyazaki film dozens of times before reading the novel, but not too much of a disservice. There are so many beautiful scenes from the movie, full of magic, flight, and war... that didn't exist in the novel. Who knew? (Apparently, everyone.) And yet, I can't fault the novel for not being great, because it was.
Step by step, all of the characters were pretty damn spot on with what I know of the film, except I was given a great gift of depth and insight that opened up their lives to me. Suddenly, situations that once felt slapdash have reasons, like the flower shop, and sisters actually have lives and motivations and peril. Oh so great peril, indeed!
I think I liked the Witch of the Waste a lot more in the novel, including her plot, her deviousness, and her end. It all felt more immediate and satisfying. And yet, the movie was so damn cute and heartwarming. It turned the witch and the turnip head into (almost) immediately likeable heroes. (Well, maybe not the Witch, but she did have her heart for the film.)
How can I decide which is better? I am tempted to go for my go to canned speech about how novels are always better than their movie adaptations, but I'm having a bit of trouble here. The novel was a wonderfully complete set piece with a light voice throughout. The movie had much better magic and action. The fact that both diverged significantly in story doesn't help much, either, and if the movie had been in anyone else's hands, I'd have belched out my canned speech.
I know I can read this novel again with as much enjoyment as I read it this time, and that's saying an awful lot. I'm going to have to say that the novel is a classic. Why I had never heard of it before is an utter mystery. I'm going to name the novel as the winner, mainly because I loved her use of the mundane to put Howl in his place. It showed brilliantly in the novel, whereas it only touched lightly in the movie. I've got to go for my favorite parts to make a decision.
I'm definitely going to read this one to my daughter when she gets a few more years on her.
This is some pretty classic and classy fantasy. YA, but it's obviously in vogue to read YA as adults these days. At least there was no rape and mass death of children or mind-wiping involved.
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