A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Today is the day that Harry Potter comes to an end for me. The final film – The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 – is released and I’m off to see it. I’m going with a friend that has never read the books, a tradition that ends with us having dinner and me telling her that the books are so much better and she should read them. I say this every time. I have been known to tell perfect strangers about my love of the series and urge them to dive into it themselves. I envy anyone who is about to read them for the first time.
I’m excited to see what they do with the second half of the final book, I’m particularly excited to see the end of Neville Longbottom’s story arc – I’m a die-hard Neville fangirl. But I’m also a little sad. Here’s why.
I spotted Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Tesco when I was about 11 or 12. It had already won the Smarties Book Prize (so proclaimed a gold medal on its cover) but I had never heard of it. My Mum bought it for me and I stepped into a magical world. I remember sitting on my blue blow up chair (remember those?) and declaring that this was the best book I had EVER read. A girl in my form class, a girl I thought impossibly cool and super intelligent, spotted me reading it and gave me the thumbs up. I saw Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets a few months later in one of the magazines at school and I was thrilled that there was a sequel. It was only after that that I realised it was a worldwide phenomenon.
From The Prisoner of Azkaban onwards, I devoured the books in a few days, desperate to know what happened next. It wasn’t long before I returned to them and re-read them slowly, lovingly. To this day they are the most read books on my bookshelf. I still have that now tatty copy of Philosopher’s Stone. A lot of my teen memories are tangled up with Harry – conversations about the books with my American cousins as we sat in the backseat of the van on the way to LA; the clear A3 folder that I carried my coursework in was lovingly decorated with Harry Potter pictures; the nonplussed look on an interviewer’s face when I said that Neville Longbottom was my favourite character.
I think it was Harry Potter that gave me the love I have for big baggy novels. Works like Bleak House, White Teeth and Possesion are favourites because I love thick books, filled with people, teeming with life. I know some people will baulk at the comparison, but for me it’s a direct line from Harry Potter to Bleak House. Have you seen the size of The Goblet of Fire? If I could get through that in two days, I wasn’t about to be intimidated by the width of Bleak House.
The characters are what make the book for me. My favourites are actually outside the main trio – Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, Remus Lupin, Dobby. In fact, I find Harry a pleasant enough chap, but a bit dull. As an awkward, bullied teenager who couldn’t get her head round Physics, is it any wonder that I took a clutch of outsiders to my heart? To this day I love Remus’s courage in the face of adversity, Luna’s total dedication to carving her own path, Neville’s ability to grow into – well, you’ll see. Some of the friends I made at university I made through Harry Potter. If you can’t think of anything to say, ask if they’ve read it!
I’m always astounded by the claims that Harry Potter is about Satanism. If anything, it’s a deeply Christian allegory, a traditional tale of good triumphing over evil, of love conquering all. And there are other lessons too – Remus Lupin shows us what happens when we turn on people for being different, the behaviour of the Death Eaters shows what happens when bigotry takes over. The books have real heart. You can tell Rowling loves her characters, that she felt the same tug we all felt when we closed The Deathly Hallows and realised that it was all over. I cried over the demise of my favourite characters, but I didn’t cry because it was finished – somehow I felt that those who survived would live on beyond the final pages (and that bum note of an epilogue. Sorry, Jo, I really didn’t like it!)
Yes, there are better writers than Rowling, but I think even the most hardened critic would have trouble making a case for her not being a great inventor. The world she has created is a living and breathing world, so real you can almost taste the butterbeer. The characters, over the years I have known them, have become friends.
In October, Rowling will launch Pottermore. I can’t wait to see it. I hear that Dean Thomas has a backstory she could never work into the books and I want to read it. There are some that will claim that Pottermore is milking it, that with the final film we should lay it to rest. I understand that and after reading the new material, I probably won’t look into Pottermore again. But people are still discovering Harry Potter. In a few years time, much-loved books will be placed into the hands of children by one-time fans. Those children won’t get to experience midnight sales, spending months picking over evidence to figure out who R.A.B is. I hope that Pottermore will create that sense of community for a new generation.
But now it’s time to put some tissues in my bag and go to say goodbye to some old and very dear friends