Posted in book review

‘Howl’s Moving Castle’, by Diana Wynne Jones – review

Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle, #1)Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Whether it is for the pursuit of artistic aestheticism or indulgence in sheer egoism, writers tell their stories in books where, in the peculiar alchemy of words dipped in imagination, they blend the real with the ideal. That said, Diana Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle is a beautiful world of magic and witcraft that cast a spell on the gloomy reality to make it a gorgeous fantasy.

A melancholy of vertiginous existential crisis in a life fraught with responsibilities and duties morphs into a fantastic narrative of the imaginary world where magic, wizards, witches, and demons mingle with ordinary people and even fall in love with them like those of Olympus gods with mortals until Hesiod’s Heroic Age. Sophie Hatter, the book’s heroine, is Jones’s alter ego, only younger in age and freer in status. Still, everything else about her is Jones herself, most prominently her being the eldest child responsible for all things adult – by alas, birthright. Sophie’s self-analysis of being the oldest for the principal cause of misfortune applies to Jones’s family background, being the oldest of three sisters just as Sophie is for Martha and Lattie. I remember reading elsewhere that at the time of writing this book, Jones was going through the crisis in adulthood: a sickly husband, live-in mother-in-law, friends in need, children to take care of, etc. Despite Jones’s degree in English Literature from Oxford University, she felt injustice for her talent and mind eroding in the seemingly endless Sisyphean maneuvering of rolling up a daily boulder. So she took a pen to paper and wrote the book to spur her reservoir of existential frustrations on writing her story in the guise of fiction.

However, after the book’s success, Jones withstood from telling it a reflection of her inner world. She referred it to a certain boy who wanted to create a moving castle. Although the integrity of the inspiration belongs to the author’s literary license, Jones appeared to be reluctant to admit that she told her story in the book due to her celebrity. On a personal note, I could understand her volition to employ a more lovely pretext in safely hiding her existential frustration in privacy. Still, the book’s background written at the time of a crisis of adulthood puts together tesserae in a fanciful puzzler. The agency of magical elements in the story enables Jones to free herself from the mental inhibitions to depict the world’s realism, which seems too dreary and drab, gloomy and harsh, for the reader to be burdened with the author’s frustrations. Instead, Jones created the world populated with witches and wizards not looking like creepy worshippers of the devil and a fire demon far from being diabolic. All the menageries of wondrous characters neutralize the pathos of Sophie.

I read the book with a kindred spirit of being the firstborn child in the family, so it was a pleasure to know that I was not the only person who felt burdened with family and others’ cares. Witch of Waste’s turning Sophie into a ninety-year-old spinster adumbrates Jones’ feeling of oldness in her soul that affects her appearance due to her continuously solitary labor of care. Yet, Jones is kind to Sophie with the eccentric but wonderful Howl and other helpful characters, including Calcifer, a fire demon, all of whom recognize Sophie’s worth and beauty of heart with respect and care that she deserves so much. Jones does a fabulous job of transforming a vehement narrative of angst as an adult in the real-world into a fairytale of love and luck, where those who feel burdened with the weight of life will be awarded fabulous surprise long overdue.



View all my reviews

Posted in Poetry

Dulcet, Capacious, Illuminate

She followed a full bright moon

That appeared from the ocean’s edges

Where day’s detritus disappeared soon

Under the arch of rainbows over the horizon;

Upon a hill across the moonlit lanes

She looked at the world below

Revealing wondrous symmetries

And every part of her breasting the breeze

From the ocean far away yonder

She flew down the starry stairs 

With felicity that was not ecstasy

And resembled pleasure only

As the breeze resembled wind

Posted in book review, Miscellany

‘The Twelve Months’

The Twelve Months is a Russian fairytale about good-hearted Marushka meeting the spirits of the months led by the elderly January while hopelessly searching for violets, summer strawberries, and fall apples in the middle of winters as presents for her stepsister’s b-day. Alas, what a cruel task!

The evil stepmother’s wicked demand for such a task exacts terror and inflicts pain on Marushka. But, the sprits help her and punish the wicked stepmother and sister as January Elder brings forth the mighty force of Winter upon them by the following incantation:

“Winds, gales, storms, Blow as hard as you can, Rage the whole night long. Whistle in the chimneys, Drum in the skies, Twist and turn over the earth, Like a great white snake.”

Posted in Poetry

fee-fi-fo-fum, fee fi-fo-fum

tumblr_p90r2uwPnN1vuvoufo1_400

The owl hooted on the oak,

The crow cried in the dark;

Dogs howled on the hills,

Cats purred in the bushes;

The Night was ripe and ready.

 

Fee-fi-fo-fum, Fee-fi-fo-fum,

The Three Witches began to hum

Standing in the grim gray garbs

With the gray eyes glaring in silence

They were ready to tell his destiny.

 

“Scotland, the jewel of thy crown,

The sword calls for thy title to own,

The blood is thy sacred power,

As it runs redder and deeper.”

Thus, the prophecy of his fate’s cast in

 Fee-fi-fo-fum, Fee-fi-fo-fum, Fee-fi-fo-fum!

 

P.S.: This week’s #FairyTuesday theme on Twitter liberally encompasses witches, ghosts, and other supernatural beings, so my choice is the Graeae, the Three Sisters personifying the Fate of Man in the ancient Greek mythology. They had only one eye and a tooth to share, but the pre-Herculean Mycenan hero Perseus intercepted the eye when the Sisters fumbled with it in the air and forced them to answer the whereabouts of Medusa. They ultimately relented to the demand, whereupon Perseus set about killing Medusa. 

This image of the Three Sisters is then also wondrously associated with the Three Witches of Shakespeare’s Macbeth by the sheer dint of the somber, dismal greyness of the three uncanny women. But as Mcbeth was a tragic figure consumed by guilt and greed, so were the Three Witches, malevolent and dystopian, vis a vis the somewhat faltering and fumbling Grey Sisters menaced by Perseus bullying them to elicit what he wanted to know. 

This poem, however, is more of Macbeth’s Three Witches leading him to perdition because the grim image of the witches conjured up by Shakespeare is terrifically atmospheric and dismally spell-bounding without the pageantry of words and expressions.