Books that Matter: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Books that Matter

The first of my “Books that Matter” series of essays.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones remains one of my favorite books, close to ten years after I first read it.

The main characters, from Sophie to Howl to Calcifer to Michael feel like people I know. I care about them, I laugh at their comments, and delight in their flaws. They grow and progress as characters over the course of the book and do so organically. Their actions make sense, and above all, are believable.

Secondly, Ms Wynne Jones’s writing style. The pacing is good, and the book is genuinely funny. Like classic Disney movies and Pixar films, the book operates on two levels–the “ooh, this is fun! I like this!” level I first enjoyed as a young teen–and a different, can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it level I appreciate now that I’m older. I’m close to Sophie’s age (I think I’m actually a little older than she is), but I can relate to her.

The humor. The characters. As a writer, I hope to infuse my own work with a clearly humorous note, and have characters that shine, and are memorable. Her humor is traceable back to the characters, capitalizing on their flaws and little tics, such as when the terribly vain Howl fills the castle with green slime because his hair has turned ever-so-slightly ginger. While not a realistic situation, I’m sure that many of us have known a vain person in our lives or wanted to cover stuff in slime when having a bad day.

Ms Wynne Jones, you were a fantastic writer. I had always dreamed of meeting you, of telling you how much your books mattered to me when I was younger, and how much I still enjoy them today. When I have children of my own, I will be certain to share my love of your books with them. Rest in peace.