The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

HP Monday – Flashbacks and Other Stuff Found in the Middle

Meanwhile, back on Privet Drive Harry is inflating his Aunt and hitching a ride on the Knight Bus. Harry is such a thirteen-year-old, it’s really rather brilliant. After re-reading this one I find myself trying to qualify WHY it’s my favorite. Because it still is; I found a lot of things I didn’t like about it – one I’m basing this post on – but I still really enjoy it! Why is that? Does anyone else feel the same; or have an idea about why I like it so much?

This post is going to be a little bit everywhere. I’m trying to throw out a bunch of different thoughts to pick up some comments and get a discussion going…bare with me.

One thing I like about most of Rowling’s writing – her ease at showing the reader her own made up world. I can really picture it all. I’ve found – in doing a lot of YA and mid-grade reading in the fantasy and sci-fi genres – there are many authors who don’t explain their worlds well (I’m citing Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series here) and it can just be confusing. Flashbacks are difficult in any writing, they work much better in movies, but not impossible. There are 101…thousand books out there with telling instead of showing; flashbacks in straight forward writing. Alas, after such a brilliant flashback in the second book (Tom Riddle SHOWING Harry his false memory of Hagrid as the Heir of Slytherin) Rowling does an awful lot of telling flashbacks here.

I know she knows better than that – the penseive in upcoming books is a brilliant way to show flashbacks; I wish I’d thought of it! So why can’t there be more showing here?! Yes, there’s lots of good stuff and showing too – the Dementors and the entire Time-Turner scenes show flashback in an intriguing and entertaining way.

This book is very much a middle of the series sort of book. Although there are a lot of things happening: back story, foreshadowing, escapades, court trials, divination and lots of Quidditch; the story we really see belongs to Harry, Ron and Hermione. The focus seems to be on each and their relationships with each other; everyone else sort of falls by the wayside.

That's very junior high too, isn't it? I had two best-friends at that age. We kept a notebook journal that we passed back and forth between each other; and now, when I look back and read what we wrote I find we were all very ego-centric. It was all about us - who we had a crush on, which teachers we liked, which we hated, and so on. I wonder what else was going on in the big wide world during those years?

Anyone else out there have an opinion? How is book 3 going? Do you like more or less than #2? My husband would also love if you comment on the picture for this post as well; he had a little too much fun with this one.


  1. The picture is scary-amazing. When I first came to the page, I was mesmerized by it for a few moments (really), so nicely done. The claw-hand is excellent.

    As for your opinion about Book 3 is, of course, wrong in a number of ways, but I like what you're saying about flashbacks. Using the pensive in future books is a fantastic idea, one I also wish I had come up with. It makes me think there must be other great ideas out there that haven't been discovered. Maybe one I will create...

    The Time-Turner is nicely used, though I think those of us who have seen so many fantasy movies and read so many stories knew what was going on with Hermione long before she revealed the truth.

    I think when I first read this book, I did not think of it as a mid-series book. It does seem like one now, though I don't think I could have made more sense of that when I first read it. Now that I know how the whole story comes together, I can see how this book is laying groundwork for later; whereas I thought on first read about how it stood alone. It does stand alone better than book 6 ever could...That book definitely is part of a whole, whereas all of the others can be individuals, I think.


  2. It has always bothered me that a book that breaks a rule of writing I hold dear--show, don't tell--could be among my favorites. I think what I love about it is the fact that Lupin is the teacher I wish I could be, that Sirius is the villain exonerated, that Dumbledore finally notices another student and takes her into his confidence, and that Harry has one living adult (for now) who cares for him.

    In this book, I also got to see the first glimmers of Rowling's writing genius. We were introduced to the Whomping Willow in Book 2, yet the tree resurfaces gloriously in Book 3. The vivid imagery of the Dementors chilled me, and yet Rowling made CHOCOLATE the cure all.

    I have so much more to say about why I love this book (Firebolt, anyone?), but I look forward to reading your thoughts on Book 4, where things turn dark.

    And one last thing, women get to be brains and mothers, but Rowling doesn't allow us to be the "hero" archetype without being evil (Bellatrix), ditsy (Fleur), or goofy (Tonks). I'm not okay with that. I'm a die-hard feminist, okay? But I still love the books.

  3. This is also one of my favorite of the books, I think because it has so much backstory, and introduces so many interesting characters. This book really takes us outside of the world of Hogwarts, even though it is primarily set in Hogwarts. I guess I mean that we are introduced to interesting adult characters, who play key roles in the story. The whole Scabbers thing is brilliant, as is the Padfoot, Prongs, Moony and Wormtail story line. The end is long, and frustrating, but also riveting at the same time. Most of the characters are drawn in glorious shades of grey, or at least the white characters are dingy, and the evil characters have their moments, or at least generate bits of empathy. While the struggle for good is key and mostly clear cut, it isn't entirely, and I like that. Plus, as a teacher, I have to love Lupin. Finally a real Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher!

  4. Ok Mara, I agree with your feminist critique, but I still love the books. Maybe because part of me identifies with the boy characters. But also, Hermione is so many of our girl students, and Harry and Ron are more like the boys we have. The stereotypes ring true, and aren't overly rigid. Spoiler alert- Hermione does grow more rebellious, Ginny is renowned for her Bat Bogey hex, and as for Bellatrix, all I have to say is "Not my daughter bitch!"