I feel nostalgic already. It’s the end of the adventure.
I’m 25, but for the last month and a bit I’ve been reading Harry Potter. I’ve been reading like I haven’t read in years. Every night. I haven’t allowed myself to pick up the books during the day, for fear that my schoolwork would go out the window.
(note: I have tried to avoid spoilers but there might be one or two minor ones below –but nothing that will ruin the books for you)
Sunday, when I began the seventh book, my interest intensified, and I spent the whole day with it. Another few hours Monday night, and I’m done.
This was my first time reading the whole series. I’d read the first three books over 10 years ago, before the fourth had come out. Though I loved them, devoured them, I had lost interest by the time the Goblet of Fire was released. I guess I felt like Potter was too young for me.
This summer in Winnipeg, I had gone through all the books I brought with me, and my roommate happened to own Harry Potter two through to seven. I love thrillers and mysteries, and I thought they would be a fun, easy read.
Well, they have been a very easy read. I don’t know if I’ve ever before wanted so badly to know what happens next in a book. But Harry Potter is a lot more than that. It’s the wonderful characters that drew me into the story. They felt real, like I knew them.
I particularly warmed to Hermione, Neville Longbottom, and Luna Lovegood. I’ve been a bit of a Hermione, the booksmart know-it-all who wants to please and do the right thing. But I can have the clumsiness of a Neville, and the social awkwardness of Luna, even I’m not wearing earrings made of radish-like plants, or insisting on the existence of creatures that no one has ever seen. Neville and Luna end up having more bravery than most of their peers. They’re also just charming in their awkwardness, Luna speaking the truth that everyone else is thinking, Neville messing up spells and potions left right and centre, yet becoming a master at the care of magical plants.
It was an interesting technique on Rowling’s part to have Harry the most normal of all the characters, in a way. He has incredible bravery and instincts, but through all the books, his reactions are the most natural, the least characterized. He gets angry when wronged, grieves when people die, sticks up for his friends – he reacts emotionally like any normal human being would react, placed in the crazy situations he faces — and he acts, when in a pinch, like we all hope we would act. He doesn’t have Hermione’s extraordinary intelligence, or Ron’s rashness, or Dumbledore’s confidence. He’s normal. And because it’s through his eyes that we see the novel’s events, it’s like the reader could be Harry.
There is a charming humour and lightness to the books that balances the dark content. I loved Fred and George (“How are you feeling?” “Holy.”) And in a series this long and this complex, Rowling writes her sideline characters just as carefully as some of the main ones. Neville’s grandmother, who shows up at the end, marching into battle of all things — from the little mentions of her, here and there, throughout the books, you get a very good idea of a proud, gutsy, no-nonsense woman, even though you hardly meet her.
The house elves, so self-admonishing, so eager to please and servile, are a curious little addition to the book. I wonder why Rowling created them. I wonder so much about how Rowling created all of this. I would love to have a chat with her. If only there weren’t millions and millions of Potter fans competing for her attention…
I’m also fascinated by the evil in the book. The most innocent good does battle against the purest evil — and I don’t know if I believe in evil – enjoyment in causing suffering, inability to love. When I read about horrible crimes, I always think oh, there must be a reason for that — so-and-so’s despicable nature must come down to his own fear, weakness, loss and suffering. In Harry Potter, I’m not so sure. People are bad, and they like being bad. Some of them have been that way all their lives.
Granted, Voldemort had a rough childhood (as the saying goes)!
Other series that I’ve devoured in my life are the Millenium one (Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, etc.) and the Golden Compass trilogy. I don’t think I was addicted to either quite as badly as I was to Harry Potter. But both these series had wonderful characters, like Potter. It’s not enough to say that these authors can write a suspenseful plot.
Next on the addictive reading list are the Song of Ice and Fire books, I think. I’ll also have to watch all the Potter movies now. Haven’t seen them yet.
My friend Daniela Germano’s favourite quote from the Deathly Hallows, which I loved when I saw it in context for the first time as I was reading last night:
“Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong in Harry’s ears even though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure.
‘Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?'”
I needed to finish Harry Potter because it was starting to interfere with my life, I was reading it so often. But I’m not one to read books twice. Maybe in a few years, once I’ve forgotten most of the plot. For me, it’s all about finding out what happens next, right up until the last page. Now that I know, I can rest, but I also feel like Harry, Ron and Hermione are going to continue on their lives without me. I see the books littered around the house, and I remember the warmth and life I felt as I followed their adventures.