Sunday, 27 July 2014

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
JK Rowling

   I have a confession to make, one which might damage your opinion of me as a reader….I’ve never finished Harry Potter…I know. I know….
  When I was a kid though, I absolutely adored the Harry Potter series, I got into it around the time the third book came out. I’d never heard of it before but my aunt bought me the first instalment and from then on I was hooked.
   I read through the first three, bought the merchandise, had Harry Potter games and toys, ate the sweets, dressed as him at Halloween and was caught up in a wave of anticipation for the fourth book. I got the goblet of fire, was totally gripped by the cliff hanger at the end and then….the wait for the fifth book was just so long…
   Nevertheless, I waited it out, with the films to help fill in the gap between new releases, got the fifth book, read it and then….the wait for the sixth book was just so long…
   While I waited for book six I hit my teens and started to move on to other interests, to the point where, when the sixth book did come out, I’d forgotten everything that happened in book five and I completely lost interest in the series, not bothering to pick up the seventh book at all.
   Since then I’ve seen all eight films and so know what happens in the final chapter, but there’s always been a niggle at the back of my mind that I should return and finish the series.
   So, this year, I’m finally making the effort of starting from the very beginning and going through to the end. I haven’t read a Harry Potter book since 2005 so I was very happy that when I dipped my toe back into the wizarding world, it was just as magical as I remember.

   As an intro to the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is both fitting and an odd one to read with the benefit of hindsight.
   Knowing where the series will go, the adult themes it will tackle and the dark subject matter that will envelop the characters, it’s odd that the first instalment reads so much like a children’s book.
  The prose is simple and the world it creates feels very cartoony and jolly. The darkness of the later instalments is all but absent here and it can feel just a tad too childish in places, especially for older readers.
   That said, this intro works perfectly for the character, after all, Harry is still a child. He’s only eleven in this book and, thrown headfirst into the world of Witches and Wizards, it only makes sense that he would view this fantastic new world as a happy, mystical place, highlighting the wonderment and paying no heed to any of the seedier aspects that we will later learn haunt the series.

   The Wizarding world is just fantastic, Rowling does a phenomenal job of creating a dense, detailed world and knows how much information to dish out to the reader at any one time. She never floods you with information, instead she’ll have Harry take a note of some fascinating object or character and leave him wondering what it is, revealing the truth much later down the line.
   She does a great job of putting the reader in Harry’s shoes, upon his first visit to Diagon Alley you want him to visit every shop, read every sign, and talk to every merchant. You want to dive in and learn as much as you can about the world.

   The characters too are brilliant, from Harry himself to the gigantic Hogwarts groundskeeper Hagrid, the oddball headmaster Albus Dumbledore and the vile potions master Severus Snape. Each one leaps of the page and is instantly memorable. In just a few short paragraphs Rowling gives you a firm grasp on each of the characters and her Roald Dahl-esque ability to name characters is just perfect.

   The book is honestly hard to fault, there is the occasional childish inclusion which doesn’t quite work later on when the series gets darker and I’m sure when the rules surrounding how magic works are cemented a little more later down the line a few plot holes emerge, but there’s nothing to put you off while you’re reading it.
   It’s definitely the most childish instalment in the series, maybe a little too childish at times, but in terms of children’s books it probably the most perfect example you could hope for and a definite must read.

JK Rowling
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