A stack of Harry Potters. Pic by Alan Edwardes, flickr.com
A few days ago, I saw a tweet about a super-cool Harry Potter DVD boxset. Like, seriously, Warner Bros. pulled out all the stops for that. It was the full eight-film collection plus bucket loads of special features spread over 31 discs, a kick-ass box and concept art and stuff and more stuff… (Check it out here)
Anyway, the wonderful tallulahlucy and I started chatting about the books – how we’ve probably read them a thousand times between the two of us, and we got to chatting about our favourites and least favourites… And our firsts. Which I thought would be super-cool to put out in blog form.
But basically, it boils down to this – the Harry Potter series defined a very large part of my life. Pretty much from the time I was about 13 to… Well, now I guess. That’s a good 12 years, and I intend to pass Ms Rowling’s novels onto my future children. The Potter series was there through some of the darkest times in my life. And in fact, if I ever feel myself down in the dumps for an extended period of time, I open up at The Philosopher’s Stone and start at “Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much…”
My first ever Harry Potter novel was The Prisoner of Azkaban. My grandmother had bought Azkaban and the Chamber of Secrets for my younger brother (who, at 9, was more into cricket and comic books than novels). I grabbed Azkaban first, and fell in love. I, like positively millions of children (and adults!) across the globe, wanted to be a part of Harry’s world. I remember very clearly sitting in a patch of sunlight streaming in through the window into the TV room and reading as Harry tried to escape the Ministry on the Knight Bus… And being thrilled to discover there was a real Neville Longbottom.
I think The Goblet of Fire has to be my favourite – and, in my mind, it’s also the most important Potter book, because of the sudden turning point. It’s not purely because Voldemort returns – though, obviously, that helps – but it is the abandonment of the relative innocence of the first three novels in stark contrast with the complexity of the emotions and the issues of Goblet of Fire. I still get goosebumps with this novel.
My least favourite
That’s not to say that I don’t like it, it’s just that of all of the novels it’s the one that I love the least. The Chamber of Secrets. I loathed Gilderoy Lockhart’s character and I found all of the “Harry is the Heir of Slytherin” thing quite tiresome. I still have some favourite moments of the novel, of course, and it introduced me to the delightful Dobby… And while at first Chamber of Secrets seems relatively disconnected from the narrative of the first six novels – we find out in Deathly Hallows that it isn’t quite so.
My strongest Potter reaction
I had two very strong reactions to two points in the novels, but one comes out hands down – Cedric Diggory’s death in Goblet of Fire and Voldemort’s return. I remember putting down Goblet of Fire and going outside to help my mother hang up the laundry, my head still positively reeling from what I had just read. “Cedric Diggory’s dead!” rang on a loop in my teenage brain – I was astounded. Secondly, of course, would be Sirius’ death in Order of the Phoenix. The idea that he just disappeared through the veil – no body, no goodbye, nothing – well, that just slayed me. And Harry yelling into the mirror, so sure that Sirius would respond… Well. There were tears.
My Harry Potter family
I often credit the Potter novels with getting my brother to fall in love with reading. We used to discuss the novels while I was home from school, and dissect the smallest details. (“What did she mean by a look of triumph in Dumbledore’s eyes?” etc etc) We saw all of the movies – I remember my parents taking us to see The Philosopher’s Stone in 2001… We had ice cream just before and I wore my favourite red dress. Potter was a connection to my grandmother… She bought us all the novels – she knew how much I loved them – and would, in fact, order them well in advance so we didn’t have to wait too long.
And then… My father. Well, he enjoyed the films, I knew that much. But when he was in his coma, after I had read him The Hobbit and abandoned the idea of reading him my setworks (I didn’t quite see him enjoying Mansfield Park, though I thought that at least some Dickens could have gone down well, if he tried) I started reading him the Harry Potter novels. In Jwaneng, when he was in the private room, I would arrive after lunch and read to him all afternoon until we had to leave at six, then came back and read for a little more from seven until we were kicked out again.
When he moved to the house in Ladysmith… Well, his nurses scared me. A lot. I always felt horribly judged, so I stayed away. In hindsight, they probably judged me more for seeming to never visit… But from four-thirty until six, when there were no nurses… Well, that was our time.
I was halfway through The Goblet of Fire, I think, before he died.