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

Monday, February 1, 2010

HP Monday – Book 5 – Angst, Dementors, and yet more FIRE

First I would just like to give a shout out to Danny and his Jeopardy appearance today. I’m excited to have one of my blog followers on a game show. You are just SO knowledgeable! Wow, teachers, students, game show contestants, published authors and almost published authors – my blog is really pulling in the stellar readers. Color me impressed and extremely happy about all of this.

Enter your own transition to Harry Potter here…

Um, book 5 is really big. I mean it is David Copperfield and Hawaii big. One semester of my undergrad career, I had to purchase a ridiculously expensive, really old book of plays and the complete works of Ibsen. I wish I remembered exactly which classes these books belonged to. I don’t, but they weren’t for the same class and I DID have both classes on the same day – which meant lugging a folio-sized, hard cover thick and ancient book around with a mammoth paperback copy of all of Ibsen’s plays. I think I threw my back out 5 times that quarter. Book 5 is like carrying both of those massive things in a backpack for a day (three jobs, school and home and a few bus connections in between all lugging tomes equaling the weight of a second me). So that’s BIG and a little daunting. And yet, millions of children (I have no concept of numbers, so if millions isn’t accurate, please ignore the oversight. I mean A LOT of kids!) have read this book. I’ve only read book 5 once before and it’s the main reason I started HP Mondays on my blog. I’ve really wanted to reread 5, 6 & 7 but I’ve always had an excuse in the past. All of this leads up to the very momentous occasion of me actually picking this great big book up and (gasp) reading it again.

And what exactly did I think of my second read of book 5 seven years (SERIOUSLY?!) after reading it for the first time? Well, first (and this one is silly) Scholastic didn’t change much – if anything – from the Bloomsbury version. I doubt American kids know what a budgie is or what exactly Ron means when he asks Luna if she is “taking the Mickey?” and yet both of these things go unchanged. I’m just fine with this as I never quite got over the ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ debacle. I think I’ve mentioned before that I grew up reading authors like CS Lewis, Mary Stewart, and Tolkein – and I was able to figure out all on my own that a ‘torch’ is a flashlight, ‘trousers’ are pants, and a ‘biscuit’ is a cookie (those British tots like their sugar just as much as we do). I did think the flashlights in England looked like Olympic torches for awhile, but I figured it out by my early twenties.

Impressions of the first few chapters (I’ve only read up to the Sorting Hat’s New Song – which is barely anything but also over 200 pages in) mostly include the crazy, angst-full Harry. I get it, I get it. I’d be pissed too (and in the American sense of the word, Harry hasn’t been driven to drink yet…although there is an awful lot of butter beer consumption in the first part of this book) if I’d witnessed a murder, been attacked, seen my dead parents and then was left to rot for the summer. But I still want to slap him. And slap him hard. Get over it dude: “Embrace the pain, spank your inner moppet, whatever, but get over it.” Did I say I wasn’t going to reference Buffy anymore? I lied.

My husband says the re-cap section gets longer and longer for each book, and at first I was incensed because no, it doesn’t. But then I calmed down and thought about what he was saying. Yes, the part of each book before Harry gets to Hogwarts does get longer in each book. And yes, some of that section is recapping what’s happened previously, but wow, does Rowling do a good job of this. It’s not all boring back story, all flashbacks and all telling; she intertwines feelings and showing, flashbacks and back story with new ideas, new places and new people. I mean we know so much more about Sirius and what happened the first time Voldemort was in power before we get to Hogwarts. We get back story on the Weasleys, the Blacks, The Ministry of Magic and the Order of the Phoenix, presented through things like a tapestry in an old house and a boggart in a desk. Nice.

Each book introduces a few more or different characters, how have we not met Tonks and Luna before?! Side note: Luna’s in Ravenclaw. Why did I always think she was in Gryffindor? And Umbridge; creepy, frog-faced Delores Umbridge – where’s she been hiding before now? Somewhere in the ministry, biding her time I guess. I just don’t know many book series where so many pertinent and intriguing characters are introduced so far along in the plot. Even though the beginning is longer in each book, I still feel like I’m already on a ride.

I like the juxtaposition of Number 12, Grimmauld Place with the Burrow. Both are wizarding houses (pure-blood wizarding houses if you want to go that far) yet one is more like a headquarters and the other is more like a home. Money and servants be damned, even Sirius doesn’t like his family home. Everyone would be much more comfortable at the Burrow, but it just isn’t as safe there right now. Writing Harry in his current snit at Grimmauld Place doesn’t tarnish the happy memories/times he’s had at the Burrow either. His dark mood matches his surroundings and neither one needs to over-compensate for the scene. Both houses – along with Number 4, Privet Drive – are potential abodes for Harry throughout the series. Remember, although we’ve never been to the Black home before – Harry’s wanted to move in since book 3 when Sirius offered and then there is book 7.

I don’t want to blow over the Ministry of Magic scene, the trial, the dementor attack, or Dumbledore’s apparent nonchalance towards Harry. Well that last part I think we can agree is mostly in Harry’s head – Dumbledore may not want to be in the same room as Harry for Dark Lord reasons, but he’s never exactly nonchalant when it comes to Mr. Potter. But I don’t want to just rehash the first 10 chapters of the book in my blog. So, basically the only important/unnerving thing I want to point out is Dumbledore’s speech about the dementors being under ministry control. I just love the way Rowling makes you wonder who’s really worse here – the government that lets the Dark Lord rise again without even acknowledging it or Voldemort himself? What’s right and wrong? Where’s that gray line we’ve discussed so much before. Harry’s world is topsy-turvy and I would guess it is hard for him to know who to trust at all.

And that’s what I have right now for you. Thoughts, comments, random ponderings? Oh, yeah. FIRE imagery. Hi. Order of the Phoenix – the firebird! OK, now I’m done.


  1. Platypus.

    Now that that's out of my system, I just want to say that book five is the one that marks the turning point in my reading of the Harry Potter series. Books one through four I read several times in a relatively short span. Book five was the first one I was able to get at a midnight release party, and I plowed through it, but I've only reread it once. Same with the final two books. My rereading of them really didn't happen. I think this is mainly because of how much I was annoyed with angst!Harry. Yes, I understand his life went pretty crap, but he's been a hero up until this and he'll keep doing heroic things (and Mariah, I totally do not begrudge you your Buffy references, they enhance my enjoyment of this blog at the very least ;D)

    Anyway, I guess I just wanted people to ruminate some on the Dumbledore keeps Harry in the dark issue. I feel like it's almost a plot hole since he should have found some way to get more information to Harry since he knew what Harry would have to do... Anyway, I'm getting ahead of where we are in the story. What does everyone else think?

  2. I think any time that Rowling has a portion where Dumbledore keeps Harry in the dark, it is a plot point. I can't possibly accept that the most intelligent and nearly omniscient character in the stories would want poor orphaned Harry with the disfiguring scar on his head to be clueless. Also, it is never a good idea for him to be uninformed; it is always as a way to increase tension in the reader and in Harry, not as a way to help Harry in the long run.

    I think that in a way, Rowling wants us to see that Harry is perceived by others as a smarter and more capable being than he is, but how could the others (hello, Lost) ever include Dubbledore?

    And I second Anna's comment on Buffy references. If we cannt reference Buffy, then life has lost all meaning.

    I do want to ask about spanking your inner moppet...What? And I wanted to give you kudos for the use of "pissed." Funny double meaning in the English vs. English debate.

    I have long been a big fan of Book 5, most likely because Harry is finally a real teen, and also because of its massive darkness. Book 5 is when things are really getting out of control, where a game of quittich can't solve the story's woes, where anothe pint of butter beer might actually hit the spot. Kids are brooms are fine and everything, but what's really good literature is when the kids on brooms have to grow up and fight a nose-less, serpent-headed freak, though they know they will lose.

  3. Hmm...I might have to do a post about plot holes - or perceived ones. I don't know Matt, I kind of have to agree with Anna here. And not just on the platypus comment -which made me laugh for like 5 minutes. Also, it's just always been one of my favorite words and should be used whenever one doesn't know what else to say.

    But I digress...

    Dumbledore. He's the guy. We (the reader) always believe what he does and says. If you want words to ring true, you put them in his mouth. So why did he not figure out a way to let Harry know WHY he was keeping his distance. Very frustrating.

    On the other hand, we are supposed to be frustrated in book 5, because the wizarding world is going to hell in a handbasket here. Plot hole or not? I'm going to continue to think about that one for a bit. And you know, after other people chime in.