Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

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!


Cecelia said...

Great review! Of course the version I've read (being a USian) is entitled Sorcerer's Stone instead. My next challenge to myself is to read the Spanish translation (I picked it up at a used book sale). Wonder what Harry will read like in Spanish?

Phyl said...

I think you're taking a wise approach, to go at these slowly. Even if you're rereading you need time for everything to digest and settle into your mind, so you're fresh for the next book.

Unknown said...

Interestingly, for me, I think the movies (and this may be a first in the history of movies made from books) actually enhanced my own mental images from the books. For some reason, they mesh perfectly. Now, to be fair, I may have skipped a lot of the description within the books as I was reading desperately at 2am to find out what happens next, so I might not have had much of a mental image to begin with...

Mandy said...

Celi.a: I can imagine that many of the magical made-up names and terms might be funny translated into Spanish. I would love to read your review of HP translated into Spanish!

Phyl: My thoughts, too. I loved just slowly reading the first book and taking my time with it. I picked up a lot of things i had missed previously. Lovely.

Kiirstin: Ha! I totally read them the first time like a crazy person; up till 2 am, feverish, like the world was ending. I have a whole year to get through them so I'll take my time. :)

Jen said...

I love your reveiw!

Have you seen the movie? Dumbledore wears crocs, and theres lots of Malfoy emo-ness, fun!

Mandy said...

Jen: I have seen the movies to date--which one has Dumblecrocs? !
Malfoy IS pretty emo in the newest!

Cynthia said...

I don't think re-reading this book will ever become tiring. Like you said, the details are so vivid and the characters are so multifaceted that you can't help but be drawn into the story :)

I always feel like when I read these, there are new details that I didnt' pick up on previously. I haven't re-read the entire series since Deathly Hallows was released and I can already feel the anticipation building up about what I'll discover this time around!

Mandy said...

Cynthia: I'm finding it really hard not to read them all at once! Especially the latter ones as they have some of my favourite characters and I can't wait to re-visit those books.

Thanks for the visit!

Anonymous said...

I'm really jealous of your self control! I started the challenge in August too and I'm already on Prisoner of Azkaban! I decided to do the audio books this time around (except for the first one) since they'll force me to read slower and really get everything out of them. These are too tempting to read super fast. Great review!


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