For my first book of the summer, I decided to read Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. At some point during spring term, my friend Hillary and I were discussing our favorite books as kids, and she mentioned this book with much nostalgic enthusiasm. Since I had never read it, it seemed like the ideal way to ease into summer reading.
There were two factors working against me. The first is that Howl’s is a children’s book, and I — alas! — am no longer a child. When I’ve read children’s or young adult books in recent years, I often find myself wondering how I would have felt about the book ten years ago. My adolescent mind isn’t too hard to access, but childhood is more of a challenge. I sometimes wished that I was reading the book with a child so that I could catch some residual sense of wonder. I can still enjoy children’s books and movies, but not necessarily with the same single-minded obsession that I used to have.
The second and perhaps more significant obstacle is that I saw the Miyazaki animated film version before reading the book. Call me an English snob, but I find that to almost always be a mistake. A particularly bad plan is to read the book while your memory of the film is still fresh (or vice versa). Hillary had warned me that there were drastic changes between the two, but it was still jarring to go from one to the other. Plus if there’s one thing that’s made me feel that childlike sense of wonder in recent years, it’s the films of Hayao Miyazaki. There was nothing fair about this match-up.
In short, I enjoyed the book, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I would have enjoyed it more under different conditions. So Howl’s, I’m sorry. I hope we meet again at a more opportune time.
And if you want to really geek out, here are some pretty pictures from the movie!