Jones, Diana Wynne: Howl’s Moving Castle

I wanted to like Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones. A friend recommended it to me, the bit of the beginning I read in the bookstore had charm and felt a bit like John Barnes’ wonderful One for the Morning Glory, and having the protagonist turned into an old woman by an evil witch seemed like a promising start for a fantasy novel.

Unfortunately, there’s too much about this book that I just don’t believe. The first example came just a few hours after Sophie is enchanted:

A countryman came whistling down the lane toward her. A shepherd, Sophie thought, going home after seeing to his sheep. He was a well-set-up young fellow of forty or so. “Gracious!” Sophie said to herself. “This morning I’d have seen him as an old man. How one’s point of view does alter!”

I don’t know about anyone else, but if I were magically transformed into an elderly woman by an evil witch, I don’t think I’d be already thinking like an old woman on the very same day. I’d be much more likely to be surprised and offended when the shepherd called me “Mother”; even if my joints creak now, I’ve still got the same mind and experiences—twenty-odd years worth—as ever.

But that’s a small point, and I’m sure that I could have enjoyed the book as a whole if that were the only thing. It’s the ending that’s the real problem for me: I just don’t believe it. As those characters were written, the ending simply refuses to ring true for me. Which is a pity.

Perhaps I’ll re-read Spindle’s End next. McKinley’s working in something of the same area in that book, only in a way that I find much more satisfying.

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