A Charming Cinematic-worthy Fantasy
Playful, vibrant, and enchanting—a light fantasy suitable for nearly all ages.
Sophie the hatter settles into the curse placed on her by The Witch of the Wastes with little complaint, and an almost a tragic acceptance that artificial old age changes little in her uneventful life. But on the upshot, it DOES propel her into risk taking and adventure she likely wouldn’t have had the courage for otherwise. She sets out to find the dreaded wizard Howl and a way of restoring her severely shortened lifespan, while hindered by the fact that she can’t tell anyone she’s been bespelled.
I’ll admit up front, I first saw and adored the movie. It reminded me somehow of The Princess Bride for all of its timeless fantasy and adventure brilliance. When I discovered that it too was based on a book, I had to experience it and contrast. I’m glad I did. Jone’s writing style makes for almost effortless reading, laden with strong characterization and organic character development. The dialogue is genuine, the pacing smooth, and the worldbuilding satisfying.
In a lot of ways the book was, understandably, more complicated than the movie. The relationship between Sophie, her stepmother, and two younger sisters, was much more of a highlight and a relational charm underlying the plot. It was also far more evident that Sophie’s world existed parallel to the one where Howl originally came from—which was, presumably, our reality. The one complaint I have is the emotional impact of the ending. It had all the makings of a romantic conclusion, but seems to do more of a vague shoulder shrug and an “I guess we’ll have to live happily ever after.”
While the lessons to be learned were subtle, among the most important was the concept that words are important, and a curse can be multiplied by the sufferer’s own will if they aren’t careful.
All in all, a delightful whimsical story. I can understand why Miyazaki chose it to turn into one of his famous animated works.