Secondary School has never been so eventful.
First Published: 1997
Date Reviewed: 6th September 2011
Harry Potter is famous, but he doesn’t know it yet. Instead he lives in emotional poverty in the cupboard under the stairs of his uncle and aunt’s house where he’s constantly picked on by his voluptious cousin, Dudley. He also doesn’t know that these days are soon to be over as in actual fact he belongs in a society where magic is everything. His parents didn’t die in a car crash, and the reason for their death may not have disappeared at all.
Not much can be said now that hasn’t been said about this book. And indeed even though I enjoyed it less this time than I did when I was a child, it would be wrong to rate it lower because after all it was written for children, and I enjoyed it immensely as a child. Rowling’s imagination and the concepts she comes up with are brilliant and the lessons she imparts should surely put paid to those who bemoan the use of magic in children’s literature.
Something that is much emphasised in the book is the fact that school bullies tend to be those who have the most to lose. Rowling explores bullying extensively through the characters of Draco Malfoy, who always gets his comeuppance, and Harry’s cousin Dudley, who gets what he had always deserved (even if being given a pig’s tail wouldn’t happen in the real world). The fact that Rowling places Neville Longbottom, portrayed as weak and easily frightened, in brave and heroic Gryffindor, should give anyone who’s ever doubted themselves reason to rethink their self-image.
Although the book follows the well-trodden path of good versus evil to good triumphing it is not your standard fantasy, being more of a Pratchett novel than a Tolkien. This means that there is far more time to discuss what is going on rather than talking about sights, as well as more time to craft a vivid world full of great differences. And while you couldn’t really say that the book is a comedy, the laughs are top-notch and very inventive.
The mixing of the world of the wizards with the real world has been given a lot of thought. Both exist together in the same space, and so there aren’t that many occasions when stereotypes can be fulfilled completely, because everyone has to keep the magic away from the regular humans, or Muggles as Rowling calls, well, us, the non-magical readers.
The characters are strong as are the principles as is the world building as is the writer.
It’s Harry Potter, enough said.