Earlier this year, with Deathly Hallows on the horizon and me not having read any Harry Potter books yet, I resolved to finish them all and see what I was missing in the world of contemporary British children’s fantasy literature.
I didn’t have the time to crack open a bunch of hardcovers, however, so I went for audio books from the library, ripped from CD to listen to on my iPod Shuffle. (Did I mention my wife works for the library? It’s awesome.) In this manner I was able to hear Jim Dale read every Harry Potter book in sequence, almost back to back, from March to July, while riding the Metro or walking between home and work or washing the dishes or doing other things which needed my hands and visual attention.
Some quick general thoughts on the whole series:
- Rowling does an okay job of illustrating teenage angst, but excels most at evoking a sense of delight and wonder from the quirky and absurd. Her prose for internal conflict and interpersonal drama, not too good.
- I do wish they had kept the name “Philosopher’s Stone” for U.S. audiences; the name has strong medieval connections, and those not in the know about the mythic stone could have stood to learn about it from the title.
- I was shocked at how much the movies omitted. Ron as Keeper, and Ron and Hermione as prefects in the fifth movie, for example.
- Order of the Phoenix was too long and needed editing.
- Deathly Hallows was mostly a disappointment, seemingly a progression of vignette-like scenes and expository text culminating in a climactic monologue.
- I can’t help but try to spot the Campbellian formula, especially Dumbledore as the Gandalfish, Obi-Wan-like wizened mentor figure who dies or departs to free the protagonist to find his own path to heroism.
Lest I sound too negative, I must hasten to point out that I was pleased with Harry Potter overall, suffered no doubts or conflicts about my Christian faith and reading about sorcery and witchcraft in children’s fiction, and thoroughly enjoyed listening to the books. At the end of it all, I still regard the first book as one of the best ones of the series.