My name is choco, and it's been almost 2 weeks since I last posted Friday Favorites on a Monday.
Okay. I really am starting the review now. *drumroll*
And tooooooooooday's pick issssssssssssss....
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones!
I thought I'd keep with the DWJ-is-the-best-thing-since-sliced-cheese theme that's been going on in this blog this week! That, and I've been alerted to the fact that some of you lovely followers are have never read anything by DWJ.
I intend to remedy this
I don't remember the exact moment I picked up Howl's Moving Castle--it was years ago, in the days when I still brought lunchables to school and my now ancient dog still stirred from her doggy bed. My memory has more holes in it than cheese* but I'm still disappointed that I can't remember the details of that important day. Suffice to say, that day changed my life. From then on, I was hooked on Diana Wynne Jones. I could sing her praises forever, and Howl's Moving Castle is definitely one of the foremost reasons why she's my favorite author.
Red-haired and fierce Sophie Hatter puts far too much stock by tradition. She's convinced that since she's the eldest in the family, she's destined to failure--unlike the youngest, who is bound to end up marrying a prince or strike it rich. But when the evil Witch of the Waste sweeps into the family hat shop and mistakes Sophie for somebody else, Sophie's turned into an old woman. And since Sophie's always wanted to seek her fortune--despite her dismal odds as the oldest--she takes this as an opportunity to finally set off. She soon stumbles upon the Wizard Howl's Moving Castle--the very same wizard that is rumored to have stolen countless young woman's hearts over the years for use in dark magic.
Sophie finds herself striking a deal with his "distinctly cunning" fire demon Calcifer--who's holed up in the chimney and keeps the castle moving around the hills. If she figures out how to break his contract with Howl, Calicifer will break her curse in return. But Wizard Howl turns out to be something entirely different from what Sophie expects: Selfish? Yes. Dishonest? Yes, horribly so. But evil? Not a bit.
Much hilarity ensues, as Sophie, endowed by the righteousness of old age, manages to force Howl into making her the permanent cleaning lady. From there, Sophie practically terrorizes Howl with her relentless cleaning since she is "remorseless, but she lacked method." But old age might just catch up to her as she struggles to break her curse and save her sister from the insincere attentions of Howl. Howl is far too busy running from his own troubles--namely the Witch of the Waste--to bother to kick her out permanently.
I think the reason I love this book is the characters--Sophie is just absolutely wonderful. It's definitely something different to have a 80-year old main character, but it works perfectly in this case. Sophie is distinctly pushy and bossy--but is excused because of old age. It's brilliant how she interacts with Howl--who has pale green eyes like marbles, rather flashy dress suits in which he goes around breaking girl's hearts, and such perfectly tended hair. He is the embodiment of selfishness and vanity, a real "slither-outerer," and horribly messy. He tells Sophie, "You must admit I have a right to live in a pigsty if I want," and when she pushes him a little to far, "Yes, you are nosy. You're a dreadfully nosy, horribly bossy, appallingly clean old woman. Control yourself. You're victimizing us all."
Howl is one of my all time favorite characters. I'll never forget the scene where he drenches the castle with green slime, after Sophie meddles with his hair products and his hair turns out slightly pink. Or when he moons about after catching a slight cold. Or when he turns up drunk after he realizes the Witch of the Waste is closing in on him. One of my favorite snippets:
"Go to bed, you fool," Calcifer said sleepily. "You're drunk."
"Who, me? I assure you, my friends, I am cone sold stober." He got up and stalked upstairs, feeling for the wall as if he thought it might escape him unless he kept in touch with it. His bedroom door did escape him.
"What a lie that was!" Howl remarked as he walked into the wall. "My shining dishonesty will be the salvation of me.""
Bahahaha. I just love the voice in this book--DWJ is the master of the "British voice." The book is marvelously well-written--witty and descriptive with cleverly crafted-dialogue throughout.
Sophie's world is very inventive--wizards, bumbling apprentices, witches, curses and castles don't always add up to fairy tale. Sometimes, they add up to something different and more wonderful. And that's just what Howl's Moving Castle is. Unquestionably one of the best books out there.
Extra: Scene from the movie (which I love too):
*There goes another cheese reference. Wow. Maybe brain is telling me something. Eat cheese?