Howl's Moving Castle: June Book Discussion

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Sky Alton
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Howl's Moving Castle: June Book Discussion

Post by Sky Alton » Thu May 31, 2018 11:06 pm

Teach me to hear Mermaid’s singing,
Or to keep off envy’s stinging,
And find,
What wind,
Serves to advance an honest mind
-Song by John Donne

In June we’ll be reading ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ by Dianna Wynne Jones. This is a convoluted and light-hearted trip through a fantasy world that is totally new and yet feels intimately familiar to any book lover. You’ll find spells, wizards, mermaids and mandrakes but also Seven-League Boots, skulls with attitude, copious amounts of green slime and a very mobile building: this is magic but not as you know it.

Below is our suggested schedule for reading and discussing but you are entirely free to move at your own pace. We’ll also be providing a few discussion questions in each thread to help spark off your thoughts but you can ignore them completely if you have your own ideas to discuss. We want to hear what you think, however obvious or insignificant you feel it is.

1-7 June: Chapters 1 through 5
8-15 June: Chapters 6 through 10
16-23 June: Chapters 11 through 15
24-30 June: Chapters 16 through 21

Our heroine, Sophie, is dogged by the knowledge that (as the eldest of 3) she is doomed to failure by the rules of the fairy tale land in which she lives. Only a chance accident causes her to venture out into the wide world. Do you think the power of this kind of rule lies simply in the ability to keep people from trying or are there other forces at play?

If Sophie manages to talk some life into your creative urges, please feel free to share some of your own fan fiction, poetry, stories or fan art.

If you have any suggestions for future book discussions, please send them to us at hol.bookclub @ gmail.com (without the spaces).
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"Does the Walker choose the path or the path the walker?" -Garth Nix
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Alexandra Steele
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Location: Hufflepuff

Re: Howl's Moving Castle: June Book Discussion

Post by Alexandra Steele » Fri Jun 01, 2018 9:49 pm

I'm so excited to be joining the book club just in time for Howl! I read it a few years ago after seeing the animated movie, and I remember loving Jones' imagination and sense of humor. Sophie was even more lovable in book form, so I'm looking forward to refreshing my memory.

Sophie's character has stuck with me as being uncomfortably sympathetic; as a reader, I found it easy to feel frustrated with her pessimism while ignoring that if I were in Sophie's place, I'd probably be indulging in a bit of a martyr complex as well. Sophie's fixation on the idea of the "eldest of three" being doomed to live a dissatisfying life comes across as self-fulling. In the earliest part of the novel, it is clear that she is very close with her siblings, and that they would be willing to support Sophie if she were to decide to try something new with her life, but that it is Sophie herself who is unwilling. However, Sophie doesn't seem to be resisting out of fear of failure (at least not consciously). Instead, she sees herself as the practical breadwinner of the family who supports her younger sisters in their success, and she's not exactly wrong to think so - it's fairly clear that while her siblings love Sophie, they are still young at heart and haven't had to deal with much hardship without Sophie to support them. Sophie has spent all of her life with this tangible excuse to never challenge whether it's the "rule of three" or her own choices that have kept her stifled.

That being said, the novel starts at an exciting turning point for Sophie, because both of her sisters are well on their way to being able to live independently. Sophie is finally at a point where the shape of her life can only be attributed to her own choices. In her case, I think the power of the rule is less that it dissuades her from trying - Sophie is shy, but she's certainly not passive, so I would be skeptical to think that she would just accept the rule as true unless she was benefiting from deferring to it in a different way. Rather, I think Sophie is intimidated by her own growing autonomy; she can finally live for herself, but she doesn't really know what the means yet, and there are a lot of mistakes to be make before she can find out.
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