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Howl’s Moving Castle (Howl’s Moving Castle, #1)
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Book Club Discussions > MARCH: Howl's Moving Castle - Diana Wynne Jones

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Kandice I read this a while ago and won't have time to re-read now, but as you all read I'd like to know if anyone else has a hard time imagining what his castle looks like. I saw the animated movie later, but somehow, even though I couldn't get the perfect picture in my mind, the one in the movie was so NOT it for me.


message 2: by Kaion (last edited Mar 01, 2010 12:39PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kaion (kaionvin) I can honestly say I didn't know what a chimney pot *was* until I read this book. (I guess it's an British thing?? Or maybe a chimney thing. Certainly I've been in houses with chimneys, but I've only seen people honest-to-God use their fireplaces twice. And once it was my house and it was because the central heating was broken in January.)

So maybe this: http://www.englishantiqueimports.com/... helps?

I always imagined upside-down gardening pots stacked haphazardly for the upper parts, and some brick facade, and noisy smoke stacks. Which is silly cause the book describes it as "tall and thin and heavy and ugly", so I obviously wasn't paying much attention (eh, I'm all for homey Portsmouth). Actually the castle was one of the few things I really liked interpreted by the movie.


Paula (pauldajo) I didn't like the movie at all. I wish they could have managed making a film with live actors not a cartoon. The film's story line was way off in many areas. I'm going to reread Howl's Moving Castle. It's been year's since I read it. Wonderful book.


Kaion (kaionvin) I love animation, and I don't think the story lends itself that well to adaptation to begin with (there's lots of cleaning and talking), let alone live-action adaptation.

I haven't really liked any Miyazaki films since Princess Mononoke... I don't think he's really strong with plot. The more direct approach to the war storyline (that is touched more upon in Howl's sequel Castle in the Air) is actually pretty clever and it's certainly one of Miyazaki's enduring themes- but the execution is too... fantastic- the crux being Howl literally turning into a dark crow thing taking over him is too far removed from the real human conflict. (And takes it all into cheesy romance territory.)

And the personality lobotomies Howl and Sophie underwent to make this prototype romance work sort of killed the fun. I did think their portrayal of Calcifer was pretty right on, though. (And did the character of Markyl serve any purpose whatsoever?)


Miss Bookiverse (missbookiverse) I watched the movie first and adored it. I read the book later and enjoyed it as well but I thought the ending was very sudden and not so well explained.


Usako (bbmeltdown) | 74 comments I NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED to find this book!


message 7: by Kellee (last edited Mar 02, 2010 06:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kellee Moye (kelleemoye) I am watching the movie right now for the first time after listening to the book about a month ago and I thought I'd share my thoughts as I watch it
(**Some Spoilers**)

*Michael in the book is such a big character, yet in the movie Markyl does nothing. Also, he is younger then he seems he should be.
*Sophie's voice is perfect! Although I am biased because I listened to the audio and she sounds very similar.
*I think the movie doesn't give enough back story, so you don't understand Sophie and her story.
*Why add a war aspect to the movie? The plot was just fine without it. Why can't Howl be a womanizer like in the movie?
*The witch of the waste is UGLY!!
*The castle in the movie is NOT what I imagined while reading. I mean- it isn't even a castle- it is a bunch of junk. I pictured the castle as a stone and traditional, but kind of wacky in the way it was shaped.
*Calcifer's dialogue is spot on and very funny, just like he is supposed to be, but he seems like a caricature of what he should be. He doesn't seem like a demon at all- more like a sprite from Rainbow Brite.
Although I did get used to him as I watched more.
*The whole side story with Leti and Wizard Suliman disappears which is sad.
*Instead we have Madame Suliman who is our villain, but it just didn't work for me.
*And the witch of the waste loses her powers and becomes obsolete- this then changes the conflict completely from what it was in the book. All of a sudden the witch of the waste is another protagonist instead of an antagonist.
*Why is the black down door never explained? Knowing about Howl's past is what makes him a character that you like. Although, in the movie they do a good job of making him likeable in a different way.
*I also really missed the side story about Howl's appearance and his suits. It added humor.
*Also, why in the movie does Sophie turn young at night? Her age fluctuates throughout- is it supposed to symbolize how she feels? Are the others seeing her that way or is it just for our benefit?
*It is so interesting that in the book the scarecrow is something that Sophie fears so much, but in the movie, he almost immediately becomes her friend.
*I'm so very glad that they kept the field of flowers. It was beautiful!
*It was almost impossible to compare the two- they were so incredibly different.

Now I realize that movies cannot be just like books- I just thought I'd share my thoughts :) Sometimes I think that directors almost use too much creative justice when making a movie. Although if this movie did not have a book to compare it to, it would be pretty good; however, that is not the case.


Cindy I was never a big fan of this book or the movie. The movie confused me so bad and the book was rather boring for me. It just went on and on and on :(


message 9: by Kaion (last edited Mar 13, 2010 12:37AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kaion (kaionvin) Kellee, your comments are lovely, but I saw the movie years ago, and my memory of it is rather too foggy? So take this all with a huge grain of salt.

I kind of liked Madame Suliman as the villain. Just for more in-your-face works better for a visual format rather than hidden Miss Angorian-secret-identity manipulation. Other changes I like is the decreasing of romantic subplots on the Lettie front (the Prince and Wizard Suliman, it's all a bit too much "offscreen" to really be involving).

And the castle is the one thing I think they got perfectly. I mean, it's in the title, and it's more interesting to have it be such a *character* in the story. It's such a awkward alive mishmash that reflects our protagonists (young/old/wallflowery/bolshy Sophie, slithery/charming/romantic/heartless Howl, etc.)** This reasoning sort of extends to my like of the depiction of Calcifer too. The dialogue is indeed right-on, and the constrasting "cute" exterior is a great visual cue/nod to his smushy interior (both literally, and figuratively, as how soft he gets on Sophie and such). This is also probably the rationale for the various-ages of Sophie (though I would've preferred a slow slow de-aging process over the more random jumps).

**I do think the movie does poorly in that it so reduces Howl's and Sophie's unique personality traits by the end.

I do like the first half(?) of the movie, but I think it goes on for too long in this part and fails to set up the plot well for the second part. (Which also fails in switching out literal magic for "emotional" magic.) I appreciate the ambition in the message, but in depicting whole countries possibly going to war requires more... exposition and set up than I think we're given.

And the literal-ness of Howl's struggle detracts as well.

I mean, I think the whole (book) story has a lot about taking personal responsibility (and deceptive appearances). Howl's mistakes leading up to the big climax are all born from stuff we see him doing all the time (stuff he's been doing for years: breaking women's hearts, secret identities, all the "slithering out", etc.). His literal transformation into a crow/monster/thing (besides being seemingly incredibly different by the type of magic we see in the first half) gets too melodramatic and literal with it taking over him with the whole power of love saving them or some such that it obscures the point of all the character-building. (Too reminiscent of Princess Mononoke, maybe?)

In short, I feel like there are two movies fighting each other. So I want more changes (from book to movie)to the beginning of the movie or fewer changes in the first half, or fewer changes to the second half.


message 10: by Hayes (new)

Hayes (hayes13) Haven't seen the movie, but would like to try to find it. I'll have to go hunting!

Loved the book, but want to re-read it, although I won't have time now. Will check in a little later for your comments.


message 11: by Kaion (last edited Mar 15, 2010 10:06AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kaion (kaionvin) Oh Lettie. I wish there was *more* of that storyline in the book. Diana Wynne Jones is one of my favorite authors and I really enjoy Howl's Moving Castle, but it's not one of my favorites because I think it falls into woeful under-explanation at times.

Right infer-rable amount of explanation: Wales. We get the concept that Howl was always a bit of a dreamy oddball("Rivendell") and thus infer the probably pure childlike wonder he had at finding a world with shooting stars (which really explains his offering the deal to Calcifer, and his flamboyance). Also, from his interaction with his sister (naggy, but softened by how much she obviously cares and him with his nephew/niece), we get how she probably raised the both of them up and the birth of his slithery-ness defense mechanism.

Wrong amount of infer-rable explanation: Wizard Suliman and Miss Angorian. Miss Angorian was the Witch of the Waste's fire demon who crossed worlds to latch onto an (untrained, mind you) wizard? Who *then* ran away from her, effectively "disappearing" so she couldn't catch up with him? Despite the fact that he's a fairly public figure in Ingary? Or is Miss Angorian a real person replaced by the demon?

Right amount of offscreen action: Martha. She switched places with Lettie, is loving learning pastry-making (which we see through her interactions at the bakery), is dating Michael (which we see through his perspective).

Wrong amount of offscreen action: Lettie. She switched places with Martha, is learning magic, is being wooed by Howl (to be fair, we see this), has an incredibly loyal dog who frequently turns into a man who is trying to warn her about her sister in danger who is also partially in love with her (the parts that are the Wizard Suliman, not, for some unexplained reason, the parts that are Prince Justin). ?!


Petula Darling I just recently joined this group, and I'm so glad I did since it got me to read Howl's Moving Castle. I didn't really enjoy it at first (hard time relating to Sophie in the beginning), but I was swept away as soon as we stepped on board the castle.

One thing I'm still not sure of is what to think about Fanny. She is shown to be kind and caring, yet the two younger girls insist she is horrible and selfish - what is the point of this storyline?


message 13: by Kaion (last edited Mar 16, 2010 11:36AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kaion (kaionvin) Petula wrote: "One thing I'm still not sure of is what to think about Fanny. She is shown to be kind and caring, yet the two younger girls insist she is horrible and selfish - what is the point of this storyline? ..."

Can't she be both? She's manipulative (but who isn't)- but it's really ultimately Sophie's own nothing doormat-ness that gets her stuck making the hats. Fanny cares, but she does suffer a little bit of creative imagination (though I do wish her character were more developed).

Fanny's purpose is mainly the whole fairytale subversion thing. And to a lesser sense she does ultimately show the stages of Sophie's growth. Sophie goes from:
1)being passively "trapped" into hatmaking...
to 2) being presented with Fanny as "horrible" by her sisters (representing our "teenage rebellion phase of growth)
to 3) seeing Fanny as another person/human being (acknowledging how young Fanny really is and how Fanny must have felt being "trapped" as well).


Petula Darling That's a good point, Kaion, about how Fanny serves as something of a measuring stick for Sophie's growth.
However, your comments made me wish even more strongly that the storyline were more fleshed out. I never understood if she was truly off galavanting while Sophie slaved in the shop, or if she was actually doing necessary work. Were the girl's opinions of Fanny showing two sides of her nature? Or were the opinions of the younger girls off base due to their youth and self-centered point of view (sort of like a kid who says her mother is a horrible person who never lets her do anything when the mother simply said she was not allowed to play in traffic)?
If the author didn't want to delve any further into that part of the story, it seems like it would have made more sense to just ditch the questioning of Fanny's character altogether. Of course, then Sophie would have felt guilty for leaving her, so maybe questioning Fanny's motivations allowed her character to go off on her own adventures without feeling a need to return. Still, that seems like a sloppy plot device.


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