Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
This boy will be famous. There won't be a child in our world that won't know his name. There will be books about him, he will be a legend.'
Along with Becky from Escapism Through Books I am re-reading the Harry Potter books from start until finish. She’ll probably finish way before me though, as I’m a slow poke. I’ve just finished The Philosopher’s Stone and about to move onto the second one – well I will when I finish this blog post.
I have not read these books since the Deathly Hallows came out and how long ago was that? Long enough to be without Harry Potter and to think I used to read this series at least once every year – when I was younger even more, over and over and over and over again. I was a Harry Potter child – I grew up with him ever since I read the first book back in 1998 when I’d have been 12 or 13. Ever since then I waited for the next book to come out each time feeling that rush of pure happiness every time I opened up another Harry Potter book for the first time.
Of course, now that is all over – I know what happens at the end, I know the fates and fortunes of all the characters. I remember each time I finished one that I’d be dying to read the next immediately after – between books three and four there had only been a year’s wait but the three year gap that it took her to write The Order of the Phoenix was probably the longest three years in my life. To make it short – just like the millions of others out there I absolutely adored Harry Potter and I still do.
The only difference now is that I feel a little emotional reading it for the first time – from beginning to end whilst knowing the whole story. Ten years is a huge chunk of your life especially starting from that sort of age – these books feel like a part of me, I’ve turned the pages so many times through so many different ages. I’ve seen Harry grow up, I’ve got to know him and his friends and fallen in love with Ron many, many a time.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone started it all. It isn’t really the most exciting books in the series – but it’s the very first one and it has something special – because the first moment I read it, I knew, I just knew I had something special. I hadn’t been at all aware of all the hype at the time, my dad had bought it for himself to read and then I inherited it off him. I wanted mainly to know why an old codger like my dad would be doing reading a kid’s book. So I never had any expectations about it – it was just a book.
I don’t really know what to say about this. I have never actually reviewed Harry Potter, it’s just such a part of myself that I can’t express it.
I wonder if I’d have enjoyed them had I not read them when I did – had I let the hype effect me. Would have have gone in thinking the book was going to be spectacular and then been unimpressed? Would the hype have turned me off? Perhaps now it would have – I’m not too sure. I’d probably have been so fed up with hearing ‘Harry Potter this’ and ‘Harry Potter that’ along with the whole Hollywood machine. Publishers have also I think started to pay YA books a lot more attention since Harry Potter, knowing they can turn it into a great money spinning machine. I’d probably have been put off by that and maybe more influenced by any negative reviews. Maybe, I don’t know. I don’t think it would have been the same had I not started them as a child, barely even a teenager.
I think what makes Harry Potter magical is that it is a world you can believe in – you can imagine getting an invitation to Hogwarts. It is criticised for not being unique enough – but then what is? It isn’t the individual parts that make it good – but it as a whole. Every generation of children need something like Harry Potter – Narnia is too dated and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a little too heavy for younger children. Harry Potter is unique – in that it captures the imagination of children in ways not many other books have done before especially not so much in recent years.
It covers many familiar themes – good vs evil, love vs. hate, death vs. life, friendship vs. enemies. I think within Harry Potter, hopefully picked up by it’s young readers are lessons about love and acceptance of others despite their differences. That death is not a bad thing – as Dumbledore himself said it is the next great adventure – but the fear of death, or not being allowed to die is in fact, much much worse. It teaches you the love of life – loyalty of friendship, standing up for what is right and good – and fighting against bigotry. Which is why I have little time for all that mumbo jumbo about how Harry Potter is full of evil witch craft and is potentially harming your children by teaching them a load of hocus pocus. If those bigots actually read Harry Potter they might actually learn a couple of things.
Well, that’s a rant I don’t really want to get into. Not liking Harry Potter is one thing and personal opinion, campaigning that it’s devilry, full of Satan worshipping and whatever other rubbish is aimed at it is another thing altogether.
I think the strength of Harry Potter lies in its familiarity. Wizard school, robes, wands, potions – all those kinds of clichés that others might try to avoid are used by JKR to create a world that feels like it already exists. I think personally, the best, most magical books are the ones that feel like you already know that world exists. It pops into your imagination so quickly and so smoothly, but yet it different to anything else you have ever read before. It becomes so real that not believing in it becomes difficult. I think even the most inane things about Harry Potter would become immediately interesting. It all comes down to the small little details – the histories, the magical items and things and just wanting it to be real.
It’s amazing to think that Harry Potter really does exist in millions of people’s imaginations. That the people who initially started reading them as children might have children of their own by now. That it was enjoyed not just by the children, but by the parents, children and grandparents as well and so for once – children got to actually share a book with their parents on a completely equal level of enjoyment – not just a children’s book the parents read with the child – perhaps enjoy but not quite so much. For ten years he existed in everyone’s hopes and dreams – in their joint imaginations. Young people read Harry Potter over and over again and pored over pages for clues about what would happen next. They analysed it, wrote essays about it – read it over and over.
It might not be your typical literary novel that you dissect in English class – but you know it got children reading and not just reading – but analysing a book on their own, not because they had to in school – usually some book that could have been interesting had you not had to write fifty essays about the same mundane thing. Harry Potter got people reading between the lines and talking. When, since The Lord of the Rings came out, has that ever happened?
I realise now I am rambling. I could never write a review for Harry Potter – I don’t know if I’ll be able to. It’s too difficult – Harry Potter isn’t just a series of books to me it’s part of my make-up, it’s what makes me love reading. It’s that feeling of being in love with a book, lost in a book, being so, so, so happy just being able to read them and feel that feeling again no matter how often I read them.
These books are my friends, they live in my heart and just thinking about it all makes me quite emotional. When I speak of Harry Potter though, I can’t speak of it just by looking at one book individually, but as a whole. I may try to write some sort or review, maybe a review of feelings then anything else – but I can’t say what is good and bad about each individual book and treat them in such a way. Just like I can’t read one book without reading all the others one after the other. I can’t just re-read the first book then wait a bit and read the second some weeks down the line. I have to read it now and carry on until I get to the end.
I have probably succeeded in repeating myself several times and making little sense. Anyway, I’m on a Harry Potter readathon and I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. So goodbye for now – and Happy Independence day to all you Americans over across the pond.