- Continuing my exploration of critically acclaimed books, this entry is the series of seven ‘Harry Potter’ books by JK Rowling.
I feel a bit cheated here as the list is really only 100 books but, as with the Lord Of The Rings and other entries, this is a lot more than just a single volume. Well, seven book actually.
The series starts very gently, yes gently, with the first book The Philosophers Stone, introducing the reader to the magical world within our own ‘muggle’ (non-magical) world. The premise behind the magical world is not really new, the stories feel familiar, but the ‘magic’ that Rowling brings is the way in which she has been able to link themes together – young orphan knows he’s not normal but finds out why, that the boring world he knows hides the amazingly colourful magical world behind it, and that his lonely childhood is false. As the stories progress they become evermore complicated, dark, engaging; friendships are made and tested, the truth is questioned and debunked, authority is ignored and measured. What Rowling has done is capture the imagination of young and old, bringing our fears and hopes together in one magical world (and seven increasingly larger volumes) and made children and adults alike believe, or want to believe, there is a world out there, just out of reach, where we could all go and be, well, special.
My wife, a primary school teacher, brought the first two books home before the press and media jumped on the hype and scale of Harry Potter, and we read them very quickly, one after each other. Then, the world became Harry Potter mad, with the third instalment announced and released. We felt privileged we knew about the books before the hype made the whole world Harry Potter mad. We waited, as with everyone else, with bated breath for each new book to be released, waiting for the postman to deliver it through the post.
Each book gets not only more intricate and detailed but also darker and takes on more adult themes. It’s not until the fourth book we have a death (Cedric Diggory), and then they start coming more and more (especially in the final book, but by this point we’re slightly more attuned to them, and they’re more anonymous). The emotions the main characters have a stronger and darker, taking the highs and lows of us all with them as they struggle through teenage feelings for right, wrong and each other.
I was never happy with the final part of the final book, that scene on the platform with the older Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny putting their kids on the Hogwarts Express. This was never needed. Leaving the characters at Hogwarts, licking their wounds and taking stock of their lives was enough. This ‘happy’ ending seemed out of sorts from the whole of the seven books leading up to it, it’s almost an after thought, almost like Rowling didn’t write it?
Of course, then came the films. I didn’t like the first film. The child actors, whilst have clearly grown into their twenties now, the acting in the first films was pretty awful. I’ll allow them that, they were after all inexperienced at acting at that scale and with that much attention. The adult actors, however, could have been better. Over the next eight films the acting becomes impressive, as do the story’s and special effects.
I’ve used this list as an excuse to re-read the books and taken the opportunity to read them aloud to my two boys (aged 7 and 8). As we finish one book we watch the film and watch the magic quite literally come alive for them (and me). We have marvelled at how much of the original stories they managed to get into the films, and questioned some of the minor story lines they’ve omitted form the later ones (I hadn’t realised until recently that Peeves, the ghost, isn’t in any of the films!).
My wife and I have been to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, when it first opened, and have been back again (early 2017) with our boys, who were in awe of the fact they were standing where the films were made, where the actors said their lines and rehearsed their scenes. They loved the Great Hall, Hagrids Hut, Dumbeldore’s Study, the pieces of Wizards Chess, etc. We had Butterbeer, a Quidditch ride, we saw the creatures and models made for the films (especially the model of Hogwarts Castle) and will no doubt be back when the boys have re-watched, and hopefully re-read, the films and books again.
Held my interest: 8/10
Captured my imagination: 8/10
Worth reading: 7/10