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So, I finally read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Mo's Journal
August 8th, 2007
11:41 am

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So, I finally read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Now that everyone has finished talking about it, I've read it. I wasn't just being contrary. I don't like reading the Americanized versions and besides, my kids got first crack. So, I ordered an English language copy {g} and just finished it this morning. Just in case there's someone on my flist for whom it would still be an issue, I'll put anything that spoils behind the cut.

I did not read any real spoilers in advance of reading the book. I did read some leaked spoilers, some of which turned out not to be true.

I have said since reading the first book that the following would happen in the last one:

- Good would triumph over evil
- Voldemort would die
- Snape would turn out to be a good guy in the traditional "weak heavy" sense and would consequently die
- Harry would end up with Ginny
- Ron would be the big hero in the end, killing Voldemort

My reasoning for the last two (at a time when all we see of Ginny is two seconds on the platform at the train station) is that there was no reason for Ron to have a sister other than to marry Harry. The core of the tension in the Ron/Harry friendship is that Ron envies Harry his fame and Harry envies Ron his family. So, I reasoned, in the end the tension is resolved because Ron gets fame and Harry joins the Weasley family.

So how did I do?


Well, all but the last one. And JKR kindly threw me a bone by having Ron say "I'm famous" in the epilogue, even if it was a joke.

Beyond that, what did I think of the book?

Mostly I really enjoyed it. I have been impressed all along with how well she ages the kids, and I felt they were credibly seventeen in this one. Seventeen-year-olds who've had to grow up fast, who've been thrust into situations they shouldn't be dealing with at their age, but believable teenagers.

I found the plot mostly exciting and felt the book moved well. I loved the interplay among the three friends, loved seeing their dyadic relationships grow and change and how it affected them as a threesome. I've always enjoyed the humorous bits and did so in this one, too.

That said, I thought the plotting was kind of clumsy in a few places, where she really should have planned things out better. Right from the start, when the Muggles Studies teacher is killed, I thought there was evidence of poor planning. Yes, it makes sense to kill off an innocent teacher right away to show how ruthless Voldemort and the Death Eaters are. It also makes sense for it not to be someone we care about - save those deaths for later. But it should have been someone who had been at least mentioned before. That she wasn't says to me JKR hadn't thought of this until writing this one. I think it felt clumsy and it would have been better to kill of Pomfrey or Flitwick or someone who has been a minor figure.

The whole Death Eaters-as-Nazis bit was overblown in a lot of parts. Still, I often found it moving and the kids fighting them made me think of the teenagers who led the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

I also felt a lot of the end was clumsy. JKR has a habit of writing herself into corners and then using cheap tricks to get out of them (e.g. Mad Eye Moody turning out not to have been Mad Eye Moody at all, after spending much of the book on his character). Both the extensive Pensieve Snape stuff and the conversation with Dead Dumbledore felt like cheap tricks to me. It's as if she said to herself, "Okay, there's all this stuff I need the reader to know. How can I spew it onto paper with as quick an exposition as possible, since I haven't really worked out how to reveal it naturally?" It reminded me of bad mystery novels where the villain tells the hero the whole plot that he's been trying to hide throughout the book just before killing him, and then the hero escapes. The stories of the Horcruxes, the Hallows, Snape's devotion to Lily, Dumbledore's past - they were all interesting, compelling, moving subplots. They lost a lot of their impact from the cheesy way they were revealed, I felt.

Another element that felt clumsy and, frankly, rushed were all the deaths at the end. It makes sense that a lot of people would die in the final battle, but I didn't feel very moved by their deaths because there were so many and so fast there wasn't time to absorb the loss. That's what would happen to the people in the story, too. A much better way to have handled all of that, I think, would have been to really deal with the aftermath and all those losses sinking in, and at the same time Harry and his friends could have been finding out the truth about Dumbledore, about Snape, and about what really happened with the final battle as they pieced together the evidence. It would have taken longer (and I'm sure she was way beyond scheduled completion date when she got to that point) but I think it would have made for a better book. Oh, and I thought the epilogue was dumb. It sounded like bad fanfic to me.

With all of those criticisms, I really did enjoy the book a lot. Some things I loved:

- I found Dobby's death truly moving, and Harry's reaction to it excruciatingly real.

- I thought she did a great job of portraying Dumbledore's flaws and nobility both and really making him a much more real and complete character than he'd been thus far.

- I really enjoyed the glimpses into Lily's childhood, even if I didn't like how she revealed them. I thought the idea of Petunia trying to get to go to Hogwarts, too, was moving and also explained a lot about her.

- I felt Neville was such a credible - and loveable - character. I thought he was like so many young men thrown into war. He rises to the occasion and distinguishes himself, and then goes back to being the peace-loving, plant-loving guy he always was. His students probably tell each other they heard he was a war hero and have trouble believing it.

- I absolutely loved that McGonagall being spat upon is the insult Harry can't stand still for.




So all told a good read in my opinion, but if I were JKR's beta, I would have sent some of it back to work on.

(10 comments | Leave a comment)

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From:talktooloose
Date:August 8th, 2007 06:51 pm (UTC)
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I agree with most of your points here. At times I wanted to call it Harry Potter and the Deadly Exposition. She was much better at understanding the complex emotions than finding contexts to make them come out.

Isn't it interesting that the death of Dobby was the most powerful part of the book?

A lot of plotting clumsiness and if I had been her beta I would have said, "You can have the Gringott's raid or the fight in the Hidden-Stuff room but not both. And definitely not both leading to burns."

Although the ending had to be between Harry and Voldemort, I really feel it should have been more about the triumvirate. Ron and Hermione got ripped off. Also, as Min pointed out, Mrs. Weasley takes out Bellatrix? WTF?!! That one was clearly Neville's and I was so impressed by him in this book.

Thematically, I was very impressed with the way Voldemort's power was shored up on such weak legs. All his assumptions were poor and he was really a very hollow leader who only had fear on his side. The way Harry took that apart was elegant. LOL, everyone is so afraid to even say "Voldemort" through the series but Harry bypasses it altogether and goes for "Riddle".

My McGonagall moment was the transfiguration of the desks into an attack force: "CHARGE!"
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From:mofic
Date:August 8th, 2007 07:06 pm (UTC)
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I thought Neville was wonderful, too. And so was his grandmother!

I did love Mrs. Weasley coming into the fray, though. There are all these Arthur/Molly and Ron/Hermione parallels and I wanted to see her distinguishing herself in battle, as Hermione has.

I also really loved how Harry called Voldemort "Riddle" at the end, saying to him so clearly that he couldn't remake himself into someone else.

From:bfmomma
Date:August 8th, 2007 07:28 pm (UTC)

Excellent observations/comments

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I agree with them all (I think :))

One thing, though... I thought that, after the third book, there wasn't a difference in the English and American versions (other than the covers)? There still is?

I also liked the Dumbledore weakness stuff, but felt it was a bit forced... I don't know... I still think she did an amazing job of tying so much together!
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From:mofic
Date:August 8th, 2007 07:35 pm (UTC)

Re: Excellent observations/comments

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There were fewer differences between versions for a while there, but there were definitely still differences.

With the sixth book, on second reading Zara and I read them together. I read the UK version aloud and she read the US version silently and stopped me whenever there was a difference. A lot of them had nothing to do with cultural or linguistic differences - they seemed to be editing difference. And there were whole paragraphs different in the section on Dumbledore's death.

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From:lilacsigil
Date:August 9th, 2007 02:21 am (UTC)
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Dobby's death was certainly the most touching, for me! I was a bit frustrated with the way that characters and plotlines (Remus and Tonks and the idea of House unity in particular) were given development and then just chopped off without warning. Maybe they had to make room for the exposition!
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From:mofic
Date:August 9th, 2007 11:15 am (UTC)
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Yeah, I don't feel like Dobby's death was the most moving because of the character, but because it was handled properly - not just rushed through.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 9th, 2007 06:04 am (UTC)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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I hated the epilogue! "All was well" is a poor ending, way to abrupt. She ended all 6 other books in a better way, weather it was "Like Hagrid said, what would come would, and he'd have to face it when it did" or something along the lines of PoA "They walked out into the muggle world together" Anything similar to these...but "All was well" ?! No! no! no! I thought it was cheesy how Harry and Ginny named their kids Lily and James, the only thing I liked about that epilogue was Albus Severas and what Harry said to him about it not mattering what house he went into because the bravest man he knew was in Slytherin... that was cool. But the rest...was yes, like a bad fan fiction.

George's death was moving and the actual death was well written I thought, the way it said the ghost of his last laugh still etched on his face...but we didn't get to see anyones reactions except how Harry felt and that Mrs Weasley was sobbing over his body, but what about George?! All it said was George was knelt by his head, I really wanted to see George's reaction. Dobby's death was moving too and well written, Tonks and Lupin dying was sad...

I loved the Pensive memories of Snape and Dumbledore and then Snape and Lily. It was superbly written. I felt heart broken for Snape, and he ended up being the tragic hero.

To be honest for a large majority of the book, I found it hard to "get into" But sooner or later the great parts came that kept me captivated.

I liked how Kreature was nice now, it showed how a little respect goes a long way.

It was titled 'The Deathly Hallows' but as me and my friends have discussed, the Hallows didn't really play a huge part. The wand and stone were used, and the cloak was used quite a lot, but it's not like the Hallows were the climax of the novel.

All in all it was a fantastic book, if only that epiloge had been better..
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From:mofic
Date:August 9th, 2007 11:17 am (UTC)

Re: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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I'm wondering who wrote this. Care to identify yourself?

It was Fred who died, not George btw.

I didn't find the book hard to get into, but I wasn't in the "can't put it down" camp either.
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From:realpestilence
Date:August 9th, 2007 12:10 pm (UTC)
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I haven't read DH yet and don't know if/when I'm going to bother. I find it increasingly frustrating to read the HP books due to the poor editing and lack of follow-through on so many points. If she were a fanfic writer, she'd be popular...but her beta would have done a better job!

I find the common excuse that "they're kids' books" to be a poor one. Kids' literature doesn't have to mean "badly-written", any more than adult literature automatically means "well-written". Rowling's got a great imagination, she makes interesting characters and good plots; but really, really should have spent more time on her craftmanship, it's clumsy as hell. From a technical pov, I think her first 2 books are *much* better-written than the latter ones in the series-and that's when she was a newbie. *shrugs*


On an unrelated topic (and my real reason for dropping in, before I got distracted!)-you've mentioned how you like giving dinner parties & cooking. I recently bought a little cookbook of Victorian recipes & thought you might appreciate some of them. If you like, I can copy a variety & email them or post them here, as preferred. Just let me know.



Pesti
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:August 9th, 2007 02:30 pm (UTC)
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If she were a fanfic writer, she'd be popular...but her beta would have done a better job!

I wonder to what extent her editor thinks "famous author - I can't tell her what to do."

I'd love some Victorian recipes, if you don't mind copying them. In December of 1989 I had a "Not Quite the Gay Nineties" dinner party and only made food from a 1890s cookbook. It was fun!
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