I've been reading a lot lately and plan on posting about some of the good books I've found. I thought I'd start, though, with a follow up to this post , in which I gave a midterm report on my impressions as I reread the Harry Potter books. I've reread them all now and here are some more thoughts:
- I enjoyed them all from start to finish. I had free versions of the books on my phone, so I could read a few pages at a time anywhere, and did. I thought it might feel like a chore to get through them after a while, but it really didn't.
- I'm impressed all over again with how well JKR ages the kids. In my 54 child-years (and counting) of parenting, I've spent a lot of time with kids in these age groups. I think they sound convincingly 11 in the first book, 12 in the second, etc. In the last book they are kids thrown into an adult situation (something with which I have personal experience) and they sound convincingly like 17-year-olds with too much responsibility, forced to grow up too fast, but still very much adolescents.
- I continued to notice - but not be bothered by - assorted small errors and inconsistencies. The one error that did bug me, as I mentioned in my previous post, was the inconsistency surrounding the supposed restriction on performing magic outside of Hogwarts. I think it bothered JKR, too, but she'd written herself into that corner by the time she realized it didn't make any sense. The last couple of books have attempts to smooth it over, unsuccessful in my opinion.
- I looked carefully for homoerotic subtext in the relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald this time round. With slash goggles firmly in place I still couldn't see it. I'm not doubting JKR's statement that she envisioned them as lovers, but I really don't think she wrote the clues in there for the reader, even the reader inclined to see such stuff. I find Sirius/Remus (which I doubt she intended) so obvious, but Dumbledore/Grindelwald eludes my slash imagination.
- I am impressed that Grindelwald, and Dumbledore's conquest of him, is mentioned in the first book. I wonder how much of that subplot had been mapped out by then.
- More generally, I wonder how much she'd planned from the beginning. I'm sure she knew the grand sweep of plots of the series, and likely what happens in general in each. I wonder to what extent throwaway lines (like about Grindelwald or the one about Albus's brother in the first book) were planted there because she planned to do more with them later, and to what extent she mined the early books for those lines and developed the characters and plots around them later.
- I think the books could have used more planning, particularly the later ones. Mad-Eye is a great character, and it's kind of a cheap trick to have us seemingly get to know him and then find out it wasn't him all along (kind of like the "it was only a dream" denouement that is rightly derided when used). And yet, that seems to be the character she means him to be - the little we see of him after is consistent with the much we see of the impostor. I'd rather he had been introduced in an earlier book (or before he was kidnapped in that one), established his character, then had the impostor take over. There could have been little clues that he was acting differently then (e.g. demonstrating the forbidden curses to the students)and we as readers would have been invested in him as a character and wondering about his behavior. As it is we got invested in someone who basically didn't exist.
- Another thing that could have used more planning was the whole concept of the Deathly Hallows. I think JKR must have come up with that idea rather late in the game. She already had the Invisibility Cloak, but how much more effective it would have been to drop clues about it being not only rare but better than any of its kind anyone had seen in the early books. Similarly, she could have introduced the other two Hallows and the story that connects them in earlier books but independently and without any indication that they're going to come together as the "Deathly Hallows" in the end. Then there could be more of an "Aha!" moment when the pieces fit.
- In general, I think she tries to do too much with the last book. I'm not surprised they're making two movies out of it - it's too much material. I get that she had always planned on 7 books and that each one covers a year, so she was boxed in by that. But the battle scenes are so rushed, with no exposition afterwards to really feel the impact of the losses, and the epilogue so cheesy that I feel there was a real missed opportunity. I'd love to see how the survivors rebuild life bit by bit; that's a lot more interesting to me than the battles themselves, exciting and affecting as they were.
So all in all, a fun reread and an experience I recommend! I might do it again in a few years.