Special Saturday post; no spoilers contained
Forgive any typos. Save for a four-hour nap, I’ve been up for 36 hours and reading continuously for 18, except for an emergency run to the grocery store for caffeine.
A few words about the last and final Harry Potter book, before we discuss the series:
It’s fantastic. From the beginning it pulls you in and grips you. Whereas other books in the series have been criticized for slowing down the pace over too many details, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows zips from intense scene to intense scene with barely a chance to breathe. The action is intense and the stakes are high.
This is a very dark novel, not at all a children’s book. While I salute and encourage all the children who are reading it, make no mistake: J.K. Rowling has just penned a mature, deep, fierce story, guaranteed to keep the attention of teens and adults.
But you fans of the series will have already concluded that yourselves, or will have shortly. You don’t need me to tell you how good the book was.
Instead, let me appeal to those of you who haven’t experienced the Harry Potter books yet. This includes those of you who have only seen the movies. While the movies are enjoyable, they fall far short of the brilliant storytelling in the books. If you liked the movies, do yourself a favor and read the books– or listen to them, if you prefer. Many fans of the series far prefer the audio versions.
Common excuses for not reading Harry Potter
1. “They’re kids books.”
No they’re not, not all of them. The first two may not grip you, but persevere through the third book and you’ll find yourself reading some very heavy stuff. Besides, it’s fun to read kids books, no matter what your age.
2. “I don’t like fantasy.”
Ask yourself why you don’t like fantasy. If you truly can’t stand the genre, I suppose there’s nothing I can say to persuade you. Most people who dislike fantasy, however, dislike a particular feature of many fantasy novels, the deus ex machina. Many readers like to see problems solved with “real” solutions (brains, strength of character, moral fortitude), and they feel cheated when the characters simply magic away their woes, because that’s just not how life works. Let me hasten to assure you that the characters in the Harry Potter series do not– can not– cast a spell and make everything better. Rowling writes a very realistic series, albeit one with fantasy trappings.
3. “They’re so popular, they can’t be good.”
That was my excuse for not reading them till four books had already been published. I was dead wrong. I was too much of a snob to think they could have any real literary merit. With all due contrition, I confess that I was astonishingly mistaken. Though the prose is simple to read and comprehend, the quality of the writing is superb.
4. “They encourage children to practice magic.”
The books are fiction, very obviously fiction. While we might dream wistfully about Hogwarts being real (who wouldn’t want to play Quidditch?), we readers accept that it’s just not so. Children old enough to comprehend the Harry Potter stories are generally old enough to tell the difference between reality and imagination. They are also old enough to understand the basic theme of the series, that good is stronger than evil. I encourage parents with reservations as to the ethical soundness of the books to sample one of them to see if they might be appropriate for their children.
So give it a try. Start with the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, to discover a richly-crafted world with compelling characters, pleasurable reading, and a storyline good enough to satisfy any age.