My first memory of anything Harry Potter was during my first couple of weeks working for the credit card company I used to work for. I walked into cube-land and my trainer was propped up in his little space reading one of the Potter books. He sort of sheepishly smiled at me, admitted he was reading a “kids” book, but added that it was really easy to read, and he needed something breezy to fill his time at work.
This was a call center, you understand, and there was always some dead time while the dialer dialed looking for a real, live person to talk to.
I obviously knew about Harry Potter then because I understood what book he was reading, and the reasons he was a little sheepish about it. It is funny now to think any adult might be embarrassed about reading a Potter book, as it seems all of us have now read most of the series. (Editor’s Note: This post was written in 2007, long before J.K. Rowling espoused her controversial opinions on Trans Women.)
A year or two or three later I went to a midnight release party at Borders for one of the books. I’m guessing it was Prisoner of Azkaban, but it might have been the fourth one as my memory and knowledge of release dates is fuzzy. I still had not read any of the books, and only went because some friends had invited me, and it seemed like it might be fun.
It was. It was hugely crowded in the middle of the night and everyone sort of lingered around feeling the great amount of buzz in the room. There were kids dressed up as Harry and adults dressed up as Dumbledore. It all seemed strange and weird and fun.
Through a few more years the Harry Potter mania grew and I kept thinking I should read them, but my interest wasn’t incredibly high over the whole deal. I did borrow the first movie from a friend and set out to watch it, but my wife told me we had to read the books first. The movie was returned and I bought the first five books for Christmas.
There they sat for many a month while I read other things and my wife studied. Eventually, I rented the movie and said we were going to watch it regardless of never cracking the book.
I wasn’t really impressed. I liked the concept of the story, and most of the actors were pretty good, but the direction was kind of plodding and the effects were lousy. The troll in the bathroom was some of the worst CGI I had ever seen.
Still, it made me want to read the books, and I eventually started on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. This was sometime around Halloween, 2006. I zipped through the first book and started the second. Halfway through we rented the second film and it was much improved, but still a little plodding. I’ve always been one who enjoys reading a book after watching the movie version. That’s the only way I don’t mind knowing the ending, and I like the visual aspect the movie gives me in the book. But after that, I completed the book before watching the movie.
My wife also began reading the books and eventually, she caught up with me. We then had many an argument over whose turn it was to read.
The books got better, and Rowling definitely honed her craft with each page. Yet I’d never say she was a great writer, and I don’t expect that the Potter books will find themselves in the annals of great literature in the years to come.
As I read more of the series, I developed a mantra – Rowling needs an editor. Seriously, did any of the books need to be that long? 800 pages for a kid’s book? There were so many things that could have been left out completely or paired down a great deal. I’m thinking specifically about all the long conversations with Dumbledore, and all of the flashbacks via the Pensieve. Sure, I like having some good back story on Voldemort, but I’m not at all sure that we needed neither quite that much information nor the extra long chapters on nothing but…
Still, I really enjoyed the books. Rowling does a great job of making me care for her characters – and not just the main three, but Hagrid and Dumbledore, and Neville and even Snape. The great thing about a seven-part series is she is allowed the time to really develop those characters and create a larger story that kept me interested.
Like so many others, I eagerly awaited the arrival of the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I pondered how it would all end, and even developed several theories. Having now finished the book I can’t say that I am disappointed, but I can’t say that I esteem Rowling any more highly than I already did either.
It turns out most of my predictions were correct. Spoilers follow.
Snape was a good guy. I always figured he would wind up being one of the good ones due to how much time was spent making him the bad guy. He was Harry’s foible for so long, and yet Dumbledore liked him and he never did anything incredibly nasty (save for killing Dumbledore) that I just KNEW he’d wind up good.
Yet I couldn’t help but be a little annoyed that we had to find out he was good through the Pensieve. Finding out after he gets killed was kind of anti-climactic. I would have much preferred him to play a bigger role in the final battle, maybe saving Harry from one of Voldemort’s blasts or something.
Harry didn’t die. I was never really against Harry dying if the story played out that way, but unlike others, I always figured Rowling wouldn’t allow the character to be killed off. If this wasn’t pop fiction I could see it, but as it is, I always thought he would live. I liked how Harry’s fake death actually killed the Horcrux inside him and that he was willing to die for his friends, and thus this made him worthy of living, but a part of me just thinks this was a foul trick on the author’s part.
Dumbledore is really dead. I would have bet money that he would have found a way to come back to life like Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, or his very own phoenix, but alas I was wrong. I only take off half points though, as in the chapter he appeared in, he very much appeared alive (instead of as a ghost) and basically played the role he always does in explaining parts that Harry didn’t understand.
Overall I liked the book and am happy with its conclusion. I suspect I will read the books to my kids, though I don’t think that Harry Potter will live on as a classic piece of literature.