Despite a few confusing set backs in terms of its plot structure, I've always been charmed by the Ghibli movie Howl's Moving Castle, but never noticed it was based on a book until a friend pointed it out and mentioned it's basically one of her favorite reads. Naturally, it was a given I'd eventually pick the book up, but one of the things that held me back from doing so is I kept hearing about how great it was compared with the movie, this movie that I loved, and they considered the adaptation to be quite poor.
Now that I've read the story, I can agree that the movie really isn't on the mark, and only loosely follows the flow of the book, borrowing events and characters and making a whole different story out of it that I still enjoy very much. One of the best things about the paperback copy I bought of Howl's Moving Castle is it has got a short interview with the author herself, which also briefly addresses the adaption. She said that although it's more of a re-imagination of her story, she was also charmed by it and actually has a few Sophie, Howl, Calcifer and even Ghibli-style Howl's Castle models all around her home.
The story goes:
Howl is known around Sophie's town as a wicked Wizard who eats girls' hearts. One day, while Sophie is alone at the hat shop she was managing, the Witch of the Waste (she's as horrid as her name implies) sidles in mistaking her for her sister and casts a curse. Sophie turns into an old woman as a result, and resolves to take off and find a way to get it lifted or else simply quietly disappear.
On the way, she meets a scarecrow that follows her tirelessly throughout the book, busts her way into Howl's Castle and forces herself into his household as a cleaning lady, learns a whole lot about her sisters, stepmother, and even herself, and finally, falls in love.
Diana Wynne Jones writes her story in a clever and loving way, bringing Sophie to life as one of the most unique characters I've ever read; a force to be reckoned with. While Howl's movie counterpart is a charmer with good demeanor, he was a more complicated and well-developed character that didn't allow himself to be understood until right the very end. You only knew it when Sophie did. Calcifer, the fire demon with which Howl was contracted adds a great third party to the dynamic. He helps Sophie along when she blows into their lives and starts to develop her abilities as a witch. Of course, Calcifer is also a huge driving force behind Howl's magic, and we see a few demonstrations of their awesome ability.
I definitely recommend Howl's Moving Castle to anyone who enjoys reading Childrens or Young Adult Literature; or just anyone who likes magical stories, far-off places, true to life characters and a feel-good ending. Everything wraps up quite nicely leaving little to be desired, even though now I'm set on reading the next related book titled Castle in the Air, and eventually House of Many Ways.