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10th December
2008
written by Steph
Oooh... gilded edges!

Oooh... gilt edges!

After my last reading disaster, I decided I needed to read something that would sooth me. All of the unread books on our shelves seemed vaguely sinister, as I suffered from the whole “once bitten, twice shy” affliction of having tried a new author and it blowing up horribly in my face. I lead a busy life and do a lot of non-pleasurable reading as a graduate student, so when it comes to books I read in my limited spare time? I want to enjoy them. Sometimes I make allowances for books that are not necessarily going to make it onto my list of desert island reading if they’ve attained “classics” status, as generally in these cases even if I wouldn’t necessarily deem the reading of said books pleasurable, I can often at least appreciate the merit in those books and have a better understanding of their place in the literary canon. But having been burned, I wasn’t looking for challenge. No, I was looking for a good read that would cleanse the palate and let me venture into the wide world of books anew. I had been considering rereading Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows for some time, as it is the only book in the series that I have only read once (that day being when it was released, as I attended a midnight release party in downtown Toronto with two very good friends, and then hightailed it home because my father was driving me back down to Nashville the next day… yes, I had purposely delayed my return so as to ensure I got the UK/Canadian edition of the book.). Lately a few snippets of the plot had been swirling around in my head, and I realized that I was a bit unclear on how certain storylines/issues were tied up, and as I don’t have a penseive, I’d just have to reread the last book. But then I saw HBP sitting next to DH on the shelf, and I realized that I’d only read it twice AND that movie is due out next year, so maybe I ought to warm up to DH so I’d be in the appropriate mindset to join Harry & co. on their final quest. What I love about HBP is that it is the book where we finally start getting some (but not all!) of the answers, and we see not only what the past five books have been building up to, but also how much further there is to go before the journey is done. Say what you will about JK Rowling's actual writing, but the lady has a lot of story to tell! In some ways, it is meant merely to set up the final book in the series, as it clearly lights the path for what is to come, but in so doing, fans of the series can really see just how carefully Rowling has plotted everything up to this point. It is clear that she has been laying extremely clever hints (perfectly clear in hindsight!) from the very first book, and I fully believe her when she says she has boxes of information on these characters and had the story laid out before she started writing the first book in the series. I appreciate that type of care and investment in the plot, and as a reader, you can place your faith in a writer who does this, I think. Chamber of Secrets had never been one of my favourite books up to this point, but the whole horcrux twist in this book really made me reappraise it given how significant that little diary turned out to be. As a stand-alone novel, I appreciated delving into Voldemort’s history and learning about the past with Harry, but I also enjoyed the good amounts of action and drama as well. The chapter entitled “The Cave”, might just be the scariest one of the entire series, in my opinion. (Also, I know that these were marketed as children's books, but wouldn't you say that Book 4 and onward are maybe a bit too scary for anyone under, say, 12? Granted, I was really wussy when I was little, but there's no way anyone should have been talking about Inferi around me when I was 7 or 8!) I liked getting to see the relationship between the trio mature and become more complex, as well as the character of Harry, who has very nearly left boyhood behind for good by the end of this novel. I love that for all of the trials that Harry and his friends must face, these are all juxtaposed against the pains of plain old growing up which are never long out of the spotlight. I remember being somewhat shocked, but also not when I first read the death of Dumbledore. For me, it was never a question of whether he would die, but rather, when he would die. I wasn’t convinced Dumbledore would die in HBP, as I thought he might instead die very early on in DH. The Harry Potter stories are very traditional in their structure and their goal, so I knew that in the end, Harry would have to stand alone and finish the journey without the guidance of an older and wiser protective figure. All his life he’s had someone to stand between him and death, and that has to be done away with so that he can reach his full potential and have his entire mettle tested. HBP leaves us wondering how the heck Harry is going to achieve the task of destroying all of Voldemort’s horcruxes (let’s be honest, Harry’s really lucky that he’s friends with Hermione), feeling like Snape is irrevocably bad, and generally just waiting for the final showdown. I must admit that upon reading the note left in the locket horcrux for Harry, I knew right away who “R.A.B” was, a point I pride myself on because I rarely guessed anything correctly throughout the entire series (another thing I was right about was the character of Snape, but I’ll save that for when I write about DH). Let me state for the record that I understand that Jo Rowling is not a high literary genius, but man can she churn out a great and epic story. I appreciate that as the books have matured, so too has her writing, and while at times she could benefit from a more stringent editor, I find the Potter books really charming. I think they’re quite witty and funny, but also have a strong core and heart to them as well. I had forgotten several of the great passages that occur within HBP, but am happy to have rediscovered them again. One thing I like about the Potter books is how emotional they are, especially in terms of how they connect and resonate with me.
It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew - and so do I, thought Harry, with a fierce rush of pride, and so did my parents - that there was all the difference in the world. (from the chapter "Horcruxes")
'I am not worried, Harry,' said Dumbledore, his voice a little stronger despite the freezing water. 'I am with you.' (from the terrifying chapter, "The Cave")
‘But I got this far, didn’t I?’ he [Draco] said slowly. ‘They thought I’d die in the attempt, but I’m here … and you’re in my power … I’m the one with the wand … you’re at my mercy …’ ‘No, Draco,’ said Dumbledore quietly. ‘It is my mercy, and not yours, that matters now.’ (from the chapter "The Lightning-Struck Tower")
Having finished HBP, I felt my reading spirits rejuvenated, although I’m not sure that I enjoyed the book as much this third time through as I have in the past (all told, however, I finished the 600 page monster in three days…). Still, it did its job because the same day I finished it, I couldn’t resist picking up DH to continue Harry’s adventure. Rating: 4.5 out of 5

4 Comments

  1. Simona
    12/11/2008

    Spoiler alert! Damn, I read a line I shouldn’t have 🙁

  2. Simona
    12/11/2008

    I will not, thanks for the warning!

    I did start the series, but I got side tracked in recent months with Spencer’s accident and then tonnes of photography reading. I’m working on it!

  3. stephandtony
    12/11/2008

    Just to be safe, I put a warning at before the jump on my most recent review telling anyone who hasn’t read the series to keep out! This just goes to show that I should never assume anything!

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