Monday, October 8, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

It took me three weeks to finish Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. I got my copy from the library the morning after the big release hoopla. Part of me wanted to savor the book, enjoy the last of a seven-part series in which I invested a lot of my time over several years.

I know quite a few people who got their copies as soon as the book was released, waiting in line for hours, going home, and not falling asleep until they read the last line. Some even dressed up like one of the characters and went to various Harry Potter-themed events. Those are true Harry Potter fans, and while such events sound like a good time if you're really into Harry Potter, they're just not for me.

However, I am a fan of a good series--one with a unique storyline and characters who compel you to follow them over an extended period of time, who make you care which path they choose, who make you upset when you've followed them to the end of the road and they must make the rest of their journey without the faithful readers.

Beverly Lewis' Abram's Daughters and Annie's People, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins' Left Behind, and Neta Jackson's Yada Yada Prayer Group (the last installment is due out this month) are some of the series that ended well before I was ready. Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic is one series that I hope keeps on going indefinitely--though I know all good things must come to an end someday.

Harry Potter was different from other series simply because the books were so popular. (Left Behind has a large following, but it still falls short of Harry Potter.) Rowling isn't a literary genius, but she has a vivid imagination and a knack for creating stories that appeal to both kids and adults. I think she and her books are so important because she created a love for reading in a substantial number of children...or at least a love for reading tomes. All of the hours kids spent reading Harry Potter were hours they didn't spend in front of the television letting their brains take a vacation.

But what was it about the books themselves that attracted so many people? In short, Harry Potter was an ordinary boy with extraordinary powers. His home life sucked, but he was given a chance to be so much more than an orphan with abusive relatives. What kid doesn't complain about his or her family at some point in time? What kid doesn't wish to be transported to a far away place that is a gazillion times better than home? What kid doesn't dream of being able to perform magic and become a hero? Kids identify with Harry Potter to a certain extent, and then they wish they could be just like him. Heck, I'm an adult, and I wish I could be just like Mrs. Weasley and get my knitting needles to finish all my knits in progress by themselves!

I spent quite a bit of time exchanging emails about the book, what we liked and didn't, with my blog buddy Bethany, and the one question that kept popping up in my mind centered on the series as a whole: Is this book a fitting end to the tale of Harry Potter?

**Spoiler Alert**

There was nothing in the book that blew me away. We'd already seen or guessed at the Harry/Ginnie and Ron/Hermione romantic pairing. We knew there was more to Dumbledore's death at the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, that it wasn't black-and-white. We already knew Draco wasn't as tough as he wanted everyone to believe. We figured that good would prevail over evil because, let's face it, for the most dark and powerful wizard of all time, Voldemort was a wuss. He spent much of the book in hiding, and you'd think that for someone with his powers, he'd know that Harry was in his mind.

(Okay, I lied. The whole Snape being in love with Harry's mother thing I didn't see coming. Maybe because that particular storyline seemed rushed and didn't mesh at all with the Snape we'd seen since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I think Rowling wanted to surprise readers with a softer side of Snape and explain why he'd been such a hard-ass, but it left many of us shaking our heads. Oh, and Aunt Petunia assuming the attitude that Lily was a freak because she could do magic mainly because Dumbledore turned down her pleadings to be enrolled in Hogwarts along with Lily was dumb. Funny, but dumb.)

In my opinion, the best part of the entire book was Mrs. Weasley pushing Hermione and Ginnie out of the way to finish off Bellatrix Lestrange. That part was even better than the ultimate defeat of Voldemort.

Was the book a fitting conclusion to the series? It certainly took readers on a long (and sometimes tedious) journey and tied up some loose ends in regards to Dumbledore and Voldemort. Was it perfect? Of course not. There were a few loose ends, characters not accounted for by the end of the book. (For instance, what happened to the Dursleys after they were taken away from Privet Drive at the beginning of the book and put under the protection of wizards?)

Personally, I would've liked to see a little more about Harry as an adult, something more than a few pages in an epilogue letting us know he was happily married with children and lacking a painful scar. He'd grown up in an abusive home, desperately missing his parents, went from not knowing who he was to being the most popular person in the wizarding world, and he was always in danger. It would've been nice to see how he coped with freedom shortly after Voldemort's downfall and get a larger glimpse of how it all impacted him as an adult. Much of the journey to find the horcruxes and the fighting amongst Harry, Ron, and Hermione as to what objects were actually horcruxes could have been shortened. And it was disappointing that Rowling, after slowly building to the final battle at Hogwarts, sped through it all in a few chapters and then went fast forward several years into the future.

**End Spoiler Alert**

Even so, I think Rowling told a good story that will last long after she's gone. Few of us writers will leave such a legacy.

Disclosure:  I borrowed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows from the library.


Serena said...

I totally knew that Snape had a thing for Harry's Mom; why else would he have treated him with such disdain and hatred in the beginnings...I have not read the books, and probably will not because I have seen the movies and you know my rules about that.

I think this is a great review...and gives me much to look forward to if they make all the books into movies.

I only wish that I could write a great series.

Anna said...

Since you haven't read any of the books and have only seen the movies, I'm curious as to why you believed Snape had a thing for Harry's mother. It's not like it's really been hinted at before the final book. It looked more like Snape hated Harry simply because he might still be a follower of Voldemort. I don't know.

Serena said...

I dunno...i always thought there was more to snape, particularly when it came to harry. I couldn't pinpoint an exact moment I believed it for sure and why. I just had an inkling that it had to do with his mom or both parents...

I always have a soft spot for he needed to have a secret that would make him hate harry as much as he did...rather than just be a minion of voldemort. The hatred seemed more personal than that to me in the way snape was portrayed on screen I guess.

Anna said...

Well, I also suspected there was more than just his past ties to Voldemort. To me, though, it just seemed like his relationship with Lily came from nowhere. I think she should've developed Snape's character a little more along the way. Like I said, it honestly seems like some of the parts of the book were rush jobs.

Bethany said...

Well, I DO NOT believe the thing with Lily and Snape. I didn't think Snape actually hated Harry, if you look, he never ever hurt him and even protected him a few times. But, please, you think Snape actually spent the next 20 years moping after someone he knew when he was 11.
There were alot of holes in the last book that were never covered. The biggest being James Potter's family. Where in the heck were they?
Right now I am reading the Phillipa Gregory trilogy about the Tudors, it is a little silly, but nonetheless fascinating.
But I sure will miss Harry Potter. I personally think Snape is alive and well and hiding in COrnwall.
(where have I been? my horrible baby plucked (yes, plucked) the keys off my laptop and I had to wait a week for a replacement.

Anna said...

Sorry about your laptop. Children do the strangest things sometimes.

You're right that Rowling never once mentioned James' parents. You'd think that if they were alive and well, they might not have taken Harry after his parents died if they were trying to get him out of the wizarding world to protect him, but you'd think they'd make contact after he's at Hogwarts at the very least.

Anonymous said...

It's fun to exchange views about books and knitting, both of which I love. :)

I actually quite enjoyed Book 7. I was also blindsided by the Snape-Lily romance but somehow it made immediate sense. I also love how the little details dovetail neatly together - e.g. Snape noticing earlier that Tonks's patronus had changed, because he had experienced this himself.

My favourite part was the conversation that Dumbledore and Harry had in "King's Cross Station" - it's strange and improbable but somehow Rowling makes it real for me. :)

Anna said...

I totally forgot about Tonks' patronus changing. That would make the change in Snape's more understandable.

Knitting and reading are both good for the soul. :D