July 8, 2003
Diana Wynne Jones: Howl's Moving Castle
Until recently I had never heard of this book or its author, and I suspect that I'm not alone in this. Actually, "suspect" is too strong a word. Let's try "guess."
But recently Diana Wynne Jones won the novelist's equivalent of the Lottery of Merit, because this story is to be turned into an animated film by none other than Hayao Miyazaki, the acclaimed Japanese artist, writer and film maker. Over a long and distinguished career, Mr Miyazaki was responsible for the extraordinary Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, which are animation's mid-Sixties Dylan.
Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli is currently working on Howl's Moving Castle, and the film is scheduled to be released in the middle of 2004. I wanted to see what the fuss is about, and I'm glad I did. It's an interesting book. It's also easy to see why Miyazaki is interested in it. It's a very visual story, with an impressive array of striking characters (including a fire demon, a scarecrow, and a number of witches and wizards) and a castle that does indeed move.
And Jones' story has a number of elements in common with much of Miyakazi's work. The heroine is a young girl, for a start, who is obliged to work for her living from an early age. But she accepts this as quite natural and doesn't mind, as it were, getting on with the business at hand. The business here is trying to survive in a hostile environment, and Jones is good at keeping the reader's curiosity strong.
Jones is also good at exploring a character's behaviour, especially how they deal with their weaknesses. To her great credit, her characters change and develop over the course of the story. Sophie, the young heroine, is transformed by a spell into an old woman, and it's interesting to see how this changes her behaviour. We see her use the opportunity to deal with events with much more nerve than she might otherwise be able to muster.
The book's only real fault is its ending, which is a little rushed and incomplete. Even so, Howl's Moving Castle is an enjoyable and engaging read. I'm pleased that Mr Miyazaki, animated genius, is headed this way.Posted by Sean Hegarty at 06:48 PM in the Fiction category | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)