So I have finished the first book in the Harry Potter series for the Harry Potter Book Challenge I’ve joined, and I have to say that I have read this book three times now and it has gotten better each time. Maybe it is the foreknowledge of what’s to come, as I’ve read the series before, but mostly it is the nature of this book itself. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, even by itself, is a tightly written, superb story with extremely memorable characters and a lot of funny bits!
HPPS opens at the Dursley home where we’re introduced to Harry and get a huge sense of what his life has been like since his parents have died. I appreciate Harry’s “home life” as an important part of his character and also to the story, but I don’t love these sections. And I forgot that in the first book, the Dursley home portion takes up the first 60 pages. I loved Dumbledore’s presence on Privet Drive and Hagrid’s introduction, McGonagall’s kitty appearance, but I couldn’t wait to get to the good stuff.
When Hagrid appears on Harry’s eleventh birthday and invites him to go to school at Hogwarts, I felt a relieved shift in the tone and inwardly felt this excited joy for him. I love when a book can have that effect on me. And I mentally rubbed my hands together in anticipatory glee when the Weasley twins were introduced; besides Luna Lovegood, the twins are my favourite characters. I even love their casting in the Harry Potter movies.
Speaking of the films, at times it was hard for me to re-capture the images of the characters and settings I had before I’d seen them, reading the books previously. Especially with Dumbledore, and Harry for that matter. I wanted to separate the world of literary Harry Potter in my head from the movies, and at times it was very hard. I like the films but I almost resent them for this.
I also get excited, re-reading a book, when I notice things that I didn’t notice before. Like the fact that Hagrid and Harry go for burgers after visiting Daigon Alley, which is such a normal thing to do. It almost seems out of place when you read about the Hogwarts’ banquets and the crazy wizard food later. And I thought it was hilarious that it took me three readings to finally ask what kids do for school before they go to Hogwarts. The kids of wizard parents, I mean. What did Ginny Weasley DO all day during the first book?
I’ve been trying to pinpoint what exactly it is about the Harry Potter books that is so appealing, while I’m reading. I think it has to do with the vibrant imaginative scope, the staggering, detailed immensity of Hogwarts and the wizarding world. It leaves itself open to many new additions in each book and it takes on this gravity, deepening and darkening with each book. And the complexity of the characters and their own stories are so memorable.
Finally, I was surprised at how much was in this first book, given its paltry 223 pages! Events charge along nicely but I never had the sense of false pacing in the story; for all of its adventure, HPPS still seems like a leisurely, snug read. Something you settle into immediately, like a plush armchair.
(ha, on a silly note I just accidentally wrote plush armhair—reading Harry Potter is like curling up in plush armhair. Maybe I should have left it that way!)
I'm going to wait a month before reading and reviewing the second book, even though I totally want to dive right into the whole series again. They are so addictive, but I want to take my sweet time with them!