Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Re-reading: Harry Potter

My head is like a sieve when it comes to remembering stories. Probably not so good for writing. But not a bad thing when it comes to reading, as I can happily re-read books, and enjoy them as much as the first time I read them.

Given that my overall reaction to the most recent Harry Potter movie (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part I) was, "Huh?", I figured I should probably re-read Deathly Hollows before seeing the final movie in the series.

I imagined it would be a fun re-read, but I wasn't prepared for how much I enjoyed the book the second time around. It's been years since I read any Rowling (actually, probably 2007, when Deathly Hollows first came out), and then I was anxious for the characters, reading quickly and late into the night to figure out what happened.

This time I already knew the outcome (more or less), and could revel in the story, the characters, and the world Rowling created. And I was absolutely blown away! I think it's become a bit intellectual to dismiss Rowling, to point out her over-use of adverbs, or long-winded storytelling. But what a book! What a story-telling master! In my mind, she has earned every bit of her fame.

Rowling's a master of world-building, and has created such a realistic, magical world, no wonder it inspired not only movies, but a theme park. People want to live there! But what also impressed me was how she relies on her readers to remember the details of her world. She doesn't bother explaining from book to book what every spell means, or how the Floo Network works, she just assumes we remember (thankfully for me, there's also an extensive repository of HP knowledge online, too!). It makes the world even more absorbing and believable.

She's also a master of character arcs. I've been struggling with my own characters lately, so how incredible to see the two billion characters Rowling has all have the perfect ending, a perfect moment in the sun, and a realization that changes everything for them. Since finishing the book, I've found myself, even a week later, still thinking about that moment where Bellatrix and Mrs. Weasley duel, or Harry naming his son Severus, or Lupin making Harry his child's godfather. Even all these years later, I get chills thinking about the first time Harry sees the thestrals at Hogwarts (that's probably my favorite Harry Potter moment of all). I think that's what makes the books such page turners. I had to know what happened, to everyone, because I trusted Rowling to pull everyone's story to a close.

Speaking of Rowling's two billion characters (approximately), I was also surprised at all the voices. They're so distinct! It helps that every time I read Ron, I can hear Rupert Grint's voice in my head. But regardless, each character is written with so much individuality, they're easy to tell apart, even when they're all arguing with each other.

So it's been an absolute joy to re-read. Someday when all the hype is over, and when life is particularly quiet (hah!), I'd love to settle down for a couple of weeks and read them all again, back to back.

Do you have a favorite image or moment from Harry Potter?

I've been re-reading a few classics lately. Next week I'll post my thoughts on a very different book, Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.


  1. Adverbs aside ;) I still marvel at what she's done. My goal is, at some point, to sit down and re-read the series from the beginning. Slowly. The first time around they were such page turners that I couldn't read fast enough to find out what happened. This time I want to savor how she created this world and all its intricacies.

  2. Andrea: Yes, exactly! It's definitely a world to be savored. And I've been amazed how the book has stuck with me for the past week since I finished reading it!

  3. I came late to the Harry Potter party, so did read the books back-to-back-to-back. She is a marvelous storyteller. I didn't nail it with the character arc as you did, but I knew she completed her stories very well.

    One of my daughters noticed her theme with "7" which is another layer I enjoyed.

    Rich stuff.

    My favorite image is Harry sharing his food with Ron on the first train ride. Just that basic kindness that endeared him to me for the entire series.

  4. Just noticed the cover of the HP book. Is that the English version? It doesn't look familiar.

  5. Bridgette: Oh, really interesting about 7! I'll have to do some thinking about that...

    What a great moment, I agree! And that food-sharing scene sets up both characters so nicely, and automatically makes the reader sympathetic to them.

    Yes, that IS the British children's version. There's also a British adult version (for the grown-up readers too afraid to admit to reading kids books!). I have to say it's got a lot of neat detail in it, but I don't like it very much.

  6. I've only read the first book. Loved it but just hadn't gotten around to reading the others. But I need to. There's just so many books out there! If I do read the others I'd like to do what you did and just read the first one all over again and read them in sequence. Love the Little House series too. Such interesting information on how they lived back then!

  7. Christina, Oh, you really do need to take some time to read the rest, especially if you enjoyed the first one. They're problematic because they're so long and addictive, but really quite good. Treat yourself!

    Little House on the Prairie was so interesting to re-read as an adult--I thought a lot more about how difficult it would be to live back then than I ever thought about it as a kid!

  8. I'm going to be doing that very thing this week, because I've been invited to the premiere of DH2 this weekend and need to get up to speed!

  9. I just noticed how different the UK cover is from the American one. Astounding.

  10. Anne: Oh, enjoy! It is SUCH fun to re-read! I'm pretty lucky I don't have the other books on my shelf, because I enjoyed it so much, I would definitely go back and read them all now and I really don't have that kind of time!

    Have fun at the premiere! Very cool!

    It is interesting to see the original British versions, with Rowling's British spellings and words... definitely a slightly different experience. You can see all the British covers here:

  11. I have re-read Harry Potter at least 6 or 7 times .. Yeah, I am a little crazy that way :) .. Love Re-Reading! :D ..

    You always notice something that you didn't when you read it the first time. In the story as a reader and in the style as a writer.

  12. There's so much to notice the second (and third and fourth, etc!) time reading Harry Potter, isn't there? I think that's part of the beauty of the books.

  13. I reread the books like seven times
    im obsessed...


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