One of my goals for this year is to reread the Harry Potter series. It’s something that’s sort of crept up on me over the last few years, and with my niece becoming a stronger and stronger reader, I thought this could be the perfect time. Mainly because I was planning on buying all the books for her. And then when book 1 arrived I decided to keep it for myself. (Yeah, I know.)
Anyway. It’s been since my freshman year of high school when I first started the series (ca. 1999). A couple friends were raving about the first book — a copy was loaned to me, and I was hooked. I remember eagerly awaiting each new book to arrive. I remember midnight releases. I remember devouring a whole book in a day or two. At the time, these were the longest books I had ever read. I also feel like it was one of my first major foray into an elaborate fantasy world. It’s hard for that not to have an effect on you.
This go around, rather than speed through each book just to get to the next, I’m taking my time with each. I want to spend time in the world. I want poignant parts to linger. It’s definitely been interesting going into this with prior knowledge, but I find myself rediscovering parts — or, realizing I’ve got my memories out of order. I’ve only finished the first book, thankfully the day the second arrived.* And since this is a part of my goals for the year, I decided I’d share the journey here.
With that said… if for some reason you have not read the Harry Potter series: there will be spoilers.
Book 1: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
This might be sort of a disjointed review, but bear with me.
Firstly, I was sort of surprised how much of the story takes place outside of Hogwarts. At the same time, I feel like this shouldn’t surprise me. We need time to establish Harry as a character, and really get a feel for his life — and let’s face it. It’s not good. You sort of get this Cinderella feeling with these pseudo-family members treating this person who suffered an unfortunate event as practically sub-human, parasite of a burden. It’s hard to really envision this in the real world — because who’d force a child who’s parents were murdered to live in a closet under the stairs?! — but, as we know now, Rowling has created such real characters that, though we don’t agree with them, the Dursleys do seem real. (And very easy to hate.)
Another thing that I guess I had forgotten was just how much Ron, and Harry too, did not like Hermione in the beginning. And they were most definitely sort of mean to her. But we all know or remember that one kid in class that had to prove they were the smartest and brightest. And yes, if we weren’t that kid, we all sort of loathed them and held it against them a little. So, again, relatable realistic characters. One of the things I’m happy Rowling really brings out is not writing people off just because they aren’t “cool” or popular. Harry’s this super famous guy in the wizard world, he could have totally abandoned Ron as soon as he got to Hogwarts. And I’m not just talking for Malfoy, who’s popularity is more in fear (and in his head). But as a great show of his personal character, of course that doesn’t happen. So after the Great Troll Incident, these three admittedly awkward kids become best of friends. Hermione doesn’t really show off as much, and Ron and Harry are a bit more forgiving and understanding — because they get it too, it’s hard to be the weird kid.
After this, we spend a good chunk of time setting up Snape as the potential bad guy. Knowing Snape’s story definitely is a huge spoiler, you can feel for him. But yeah, dude’s totally got a grudge. It’d be sort of hard not to, really. Anyway. I was pleased when we start getting little snippets of his past. I didn’t remember that happening this early on. It starts that light of understanding that we’ll get to in later books and throughout the story.
Lastly, it felt odd that we get to this amazing point in the story — where he finally meets Voldemort again — and we’re only given one chapter of this. As a writer, this makes sense — I mean, how much filler stuff do we want after Harry recovers? But it’s just like, here’s this amazing enemy, but he’s barely getting any face time in the book. Ok. Ok. Yeah, we learn he was there all along.. but it’s really our first time with him. I wouldn’t want that scene to drag out… but … I don’t know.
Also: Fangirl Ginny? Now that we know what we know? Yeah, a little awkward. But hey, she’s 10 in this book. OH. OH. Yeah, and this point which I somehow always forget: Harry Potter is technically older than me. Born in 1980. He starts Hogwarts in 1991. For some reason those facts never stick with me.
Anyway. Very glad I chose to start this series again. It’s like meeting an old friend and sort of picking up where you left off — there’s a sense of comfort and joy here. Now on to book 2…
*I borrowed most of the books when I read them — either from friends or the school library. I think I only owned 3 of them before starting this project. Now my goal is to get all of the hardbacks (which, is super easy to do, especially since you can find them for under $5 online). Eventually I want my niece to read them, but when she’s ready. Or, you know, she does turn 11 next year…
Disclaimer for comments: PLEASE keep it to the book I’m currently reviewing, or anything prior. I know I elude to things that happen in the future, but still. I want to approach each of these books as I come to them. If you’d like to read along with me, let me know!