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The Compulsive Reader: Great Harry Potter Re-Readathon 2016, Day 7

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Great Harry Potter Re-Readathon 2016, Day 7

All right, one week in, two books down! Last night I finished Chamber of Secrets, which has traditionally been one of my least favorite HP books (along with Half-Blood Prince, but I'll get to that). I don't really have anything against it, exactly. It's just that if you've read the entire series, you can't help but feel like this one is a little...lacking. More on that later.

My original copy, purchased at a Scholastic Book Fair, 2000.
But I do like aspects of it a lot. I like the ridiculousness that is Gilderoy Lockhart and even Dobby. Harry has to learn how to deal with how his fame has caused people to unjustly glorify him, and the fact that he's always ducking these overblown praises makes me like him a lot...and yet, he's not so modest that he won't occasionally use other people's perceptions of him to his advantage. Like, how he totally plays Lockhart to get what he wants in his pursuit of the Heir of Slytherin. That makes him seem like a real twelve-year-old boy to me.

I also really love the bits with the Polyjuice Potion, which is so gross yet fascinating. I love that Harry, Ron, and Hermione cook up a dangerous potion in a neglected bathroom and use it to get into the Slytherin Common Room. It also, of course, sets the foundation for another mystery to come along in Goblet of Fire.

Overall, the plotting in Chamber of Secrets is a bit more cohesive than in Sorcerer's Stone. You can tell that Rowling was really improving at plot, although (I hate to say it), there were a few points that seemed superfluous--such as visiting Aragog. I wasn't sure if the visit to him was worth the information or the experience that Ron and Harry got out of it, although I do know he'll pop back up in the series again later. So maybe then it will have been worth it, but it does remind me that so much of the first two books involve foundation setting for all the adventures that take place later on.

For as enjoyable as the line-level writing is, I'm realizing that so much enjoyment in the series depends on readers getting in it for the long haul. Which works for the middle school age--kids love reading series. But it does make the writer in me look for ways that Rowling makes each individual book satisfying on its own. As a kid, I remember reading these books for the first time and just going mad with frustration and excitement because I didn't have all the information, and in some cases I had to wait years for the next installment. I take for granted that I read these books now and think, "Yeah, that makes sense because of what happens in later books." Reading while knowing the whole story certainly makes for a very different reading experience.

My original copy, received for Christmas 2001.
Which leads me to...Prisoner of Azkaban! My absolute favorite Harry Potter book. I love it because of Lupin, Sirius, Gryffindor wins the House Cup, Gryffindor wins the Quidditch Cup, time travel, and no one dies (this is the last book where that happens!). I started it last night, and even though I'm only two chapters in, I realized something else--I also love this book because this was the book where Harry's eyes are really opened up to the wizarding world. Sure, he knows about Diagon Alley and Hogwarts, all magical and wonderful, but in this book he also sees the darkness of the wizarding world, learns about the fear of Voldemort and how it affected people personally, and of course, discovers so much more about his family history. Even though he doesn't directly confront Voldemort at the end of the book, like he has in the first two, this is the book where the conflict between Harry and Voldemort becomes more real, more personal.

I should probably stop analyzing this book before I've (re)read it.

I've been giving myself three days each for the first three books, which will give me a little better than four days apiece for the last four books, which are considerably thicker. We'll see if it'll be enough...I'm starting to feel the pressure.

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