Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Book 41 of 2013: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Do you have books that you come back to time and time again? For me they tend to be books that I associate with my early to mid teens. It was an age where a lot of stuff happened, like moving four hundred miles to a different country and starting a new school, making new friends and all that stuff. I guess it was a time when I was looking for comfort and I found a lot of it in the books that I read. Now I like to go back and revisit them and relive some of that security that I felt back when they were brand new to me.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is one of those books for me. I didn't get caught up in the initial hype back in 1997/8 when it was first released and everyone started going crazy. I'm one of those stubborn people who digs their heels in when there's a book that everyone is raving about. A family member knew that all of my books were going to be in boxes after the move and so ordered the four Harry Potter books that were out at the time and had them delivered to the new house so I'd have something to read when I got there. I read them twice during the first two weeks I was there.

In case you've lived under a rock for the last sixteen (woah! that's scary!) years, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is a children's book in which Harry, who has been raised by his disapproving (of everything) aunt and uncle, discovers that he is in fact a wizard and will shortly be attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Along the way he learns that his parents were a talented witch and wizard who were killed by the most evil wizard ever, Lord Voldemort; he also makes friends, learns magic and becomes a dab hand at wielding a broomstick. Then Lord Voldemort makes an appearance and little eleven-year-old HP has to do his best to defeat him.

I normally make a habit of rereading this series of books pretty regularly although I didn't get to them at all last year because I had so many other things to be reading. I didn't really realise how much I missed not reading them until I picked it up again this year and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series over the next few months (once again I've gotten a little bogged down with reading my course materials but once I'm caught up with that I'm sure my reading will be back on track).

Part of my reason for rereading it when I did was because it was due to be covered in EA300. I read it way back in July and thoroughly enjoyed the fact that it's a nice quick read which I can get lost in easily. I've lost count of the number of times I've read it and it's all so familiar to me. There are whole sections that I practically know off by heart.

Interestingly that kind of relates to why it was covered in the course materials. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was looked at alongside Philip Pullman's Northern Lights as being books intended for children (or in Pullman's case, teens) but which have been adopted as enthusiastically by adults. One of the things that I love about this series of books is the way that J.K. Rowling's writing style sort of changes through the books; this one seems kind of simplistic but by the last two or three they are so much more sophisticated. You get the sense that you're really following the children as they age, and at the same time I suppose that at the time they were being published the children who were reading them were aging alongside the characters; when the books were published both Harry and myself were starting secondary school.

One of my absolute favourite things about this book is how fully imagined the world is. I love how little mentions of things crop up later on as being bigger and more important. I love how the wizarding world is integrated alongside the non-magical world. And I love the way that the characters change and grow as the series progresses.

I can't wait to go on and read all the others in the series again.

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