At some point in 1999, I got a letter from my friend Charlie. After sharing the same class in primary school, the two of us were exchanging letters at this point as a) we had gone to different high schools and b) Facebook hadn’t been invented yet. This particular letter contained a postscript: “P.S. Have you read any of the Harry Potter books? I’ve read all three and they’re really good.”
Soon after, I bought a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and very much enjoyed it. I didn’t immediately go and find a copy of Chamber of Secrets, though: that only happened a few weeks later. It was quite a slow burn from simply liking the books to becoming a serious fan, but I must have been there by the time I finished Prisoner of Azkaban because I was pretty desperate for the fourth book to be released.
When Goblet of Fire came out, I read it over several days. Three years later, I got Order of the Phoenix on the day it was published and took two days to read it. As for Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows, all I needed was one intensive day shut away in my room.
The Harry Potter series is very special to me – and I’ve decided to remind myself why that is. While I’ve gone over most of the books so many times in the past that I know many portions off by heart, it’s been some time since I properly read them all the way through. Sometimes I’m so focussed on experiencing new books, films, etc, that I forget to appreciate the old. So that’s one of my projects for this coming year: to re-read all seven Harry Potter books linearly, through adult eyes, and see what my thoughts are about them now.
As a kind of introduction, I thought I’d do the Harry Potter Tag. (I don’t know where this originally came from, but an example can be found here.)
1. What is your favourite book?
Goblet of Fire. Firstly, it was the first book to be released after I had already started the series. Secondly, it’s got pretty much everything: action, humour, exploring the awkward teenage mind, tons of mystery and intrigue, and quite a bit of darkness. Thirdly, it stands out as the midpoint, where Lord Voldemort makes a proper return, the threat he represents comes to the forefront, and the rest of the series will be devoted to this conflict.
2. What is your favourite film?
Deathly Hallows Part 2. It was paced much better than its predecessor and flowed neatly; all the most emotionally intense scenes from the book were handled very well; and the Battle of Hogwarts was fantastic, particularly how it ended with a full-on fight between Harry and Voldemort. Half-Blood Prince is a narrow second.
3. What is your least favourite book?
Order of the Phoenix. There was too much negativity in it for my liking, with Harry being very angry a lot of the time and taking it out on his friends, and everything the heroes have to put up with from Umbridge and the Ministry.
4. What is your least favourite film?
Deathly Hallows Part 1 – too slow-paced and relatively dull.
5. Parts of the books/films that made you cry?
I never actually cried at any of them, but in the books, the parts I felt most sad were Dumbledore’s funeral in Half-Blood Prince and Fred Weasley’s death in Deathly Hallows. Easily the most distressing part of the films was Amos Diggory’s anguished reaction to Cedric’s death in Goblet of Fire.
6. If you could hook up with any character, who would it be?
Probably Hermione. We could sit in the library and be nerdy together.
7. Who is your favourite character?
Fred and George Weasley – right from their first appearance at King’s Cross, they bring so much fun to the whole enterprise, while still being loyal and supportive friends for Harry, and having their own story arc of pursuing their dream despite various obstacles. Runners-up are Molly Weasley, super-mum, and Albus Dumbledore, the seemingly traditional wise old wizard who is gradually revealed to be a more complex character.
8. Who is your least favourite character?
Dolores Umbridge. Smug, manipulative villains like her, who manage to spread their tentacles everywhere and often end up getting what they want, really get under my skin.
9. What is your least favourite line?
I don’t understand why anybody would want to specify their least favourite line, so here instead is my favourite, as spoken by Dumbledore in Chamber of Secrets: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” I definitely believe in this, and I love to see the theme of choice being explored in other stories. For example, in Echo Burning, Jack Reacher declares that the villain is actually less than a cockroach: while a cockroach cannot really think and weigh alternatives, this particular human being was blessed with the ability to make a choice – and chose to do something terrible.
10. What would your Patronus be?
A rabbit, according to the last online test I took.
11. If you could have the Resurrection Stone, Invisibility Cloak or Elder Wand, what would it be?
The Resurrection Stone. I’m not sure what use I could find for the other two, but there’s quite a few deceased people I’d like to have conversations with.
12. Which house would you be in?
Ravenclaw, without a doubt. I value my brain.
13. If you could meet any member of the cast, who would it be?
Emma Watson. Not just an actress but a Goodwill Ambassador – she has a good head on her shoulders and would be a wonderful dinner party guest.
14. If you were on the Quidditch team, which position would you play?
The Seeker. I have good attention to detail, which would come in handy for spotting the Snitch.
15. Were you happy with the ending?
I was very happy that Harry lived and was able to have the family he always wanted, and seeing the next generation off to Hogwarts felt like a natural conclusion. Some elements of the epilogue did feel a bit awkward and fanfiction-esque, and Voldemort’s final death was anticlimactic, but I was mostly satisfied.
16. How much does Harry Potter mean to me?
The Harry Potter series stands apart from all other books in my mind. There are plenty of books that I love, but none are quite so special to me as these.