Making Sweden 5% nerdier than it has to be.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Harry Potter Retrospective Part 1

He rached out and pulled the book out from the back of the shelf. It hadn't been used in quite some time but the marks it wore showed that this had not been the case in the past. The cover had scratches and the corner edges had become dull. Inside the book a number of pages had spots of unknown origin on them and an entire chapter consisted of loose pages. Otherwise the book was in readable condition.

As cynism had marked his once naive soul it was with caution that he opened the book.

And then he smiled.

The magic was still there.

So once again the world has been gripped by a Harry Potter fever due to the first part of the last movie airing this week, I think that the fever is a bit milder now than it used to be since the newness of it all is over, but maybe I'm just moving in the wrong nerd circles to really know, and I've decided to read through all the Harry Potter books once again to see how well they hold up nowadays. First up is naturally Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone.

As I've said before this was the book that got me into reading books back when I was eleven years old and only watched tv. At the time the main attraction for me could be split up into two parts. For one thing Harry was the same age me so it made me relate to the feelings that he was going through in the book, Rowling is very good at capturing the mind and emotional state of young people, and it added a lot of attraction to the book's story. The trend of me being the same age as Harry was maintained up to Order of the Phoenix, the fifth book for you non-readers, which came out like a month before I grew past him. But by that time I'd already been sucked into the world and it didn't matter as much, it was just a neat little factoid.

Anyway, the second thing was that it was genuinely exciting. So many imaginative ideas were put into the story. It was really just a large new world for me to explore at my own leisure, which of course is a major charm of reading books, and as an introduction to this world the book worked wonderfully. That it had a fun and adventurous story, while still taking place in a school, just made it all the more enjoyable. I pretty much just loved the whole thing and since it was the first book I read through I broke a lot of personal ground here so it's only natural that I have a great fondness and nostalgic feelings towards it.

So how does it hold up after 12 years?

Pretty damn well actually.

One thing that I couldn't notice when I was eleven was that the book is really well written. The characters feel like real people, though with somewhat exaggerated in certain mannerisms or larger than life awesome as in Dumbledore's case. The dialogue is equally believable and doesn't feel dated or outlandish at all, even when the most spectacular things are referenced or dicussed in fine detail. There's some well done character development for the main cast, with Ron, Herminone and Neville getting the best of it. And there's of course the plot-twist of Quirrel being the real threat and not Snape, even if Snape is a complete douchebag.

Man o man did my jaw drop when I turned the page to the last chapter the first time I read this. That Snape wasn't the one who had been trying to kill Harry was just straight out of the left-field for me. But that was only because I didn't see all the clues, I doubt that anybody actually did. Re-reading the book I can see that they're all there plain as day. Small yet simple and effective. It set a tradition of there being a cleverly concealed mystery in each book for the reader to solve. To my petty annoyance I never did solve any of them, but that's ok because they were all just as well-executed as the one in Philosophere's Stone, at least I think that they were. We'll see later on.

Beyond all that there were lots of things set up for future installments of the series. Things like Voldemort's inhumanity and the reason he can't die is mildly hinted at. The situation with Neville's parents is mentioned but somebody had to have wondered why he was being taken care of by his grandmother. Snape's reason for hating Harry is stated but not explored as well as it would be in later parts of the series. And the complx tension between Ron and Herminone begins early on. Overall, it feels like there is world here and that things are happening outside of the main character's perspective and that's a trait that I admire in a writer.

Now I will say that the style of writing is simple as in clearly aimed at children. Which isn't to say that it's bad, just that Rowling knew her target audience. And it does get more mature with each installment which just further shows Rowling's skill as a writer.

In short, I really liked it in the larger sense. And many of the things I've said here might probably be repeated in the following reviews. So unless I change my opinion based on future reading I'll leave the big picture review here and focus on the smaller things in the next six reviews. In short, I love this book as I love all the other books. Just like Philosphere's stone was an introduction to this wonderful series and imaginative world I'll let this review be an introduction to how I feel about these books.

But before I go I wish to thank a few people. First of all is Lena Fries-Gedin who has translated all of Harry Potter books into swedish and done so spectacularly. I read the swedish edition up until the fifth one where I got tired of waiting and just switched to the english edition, sorry about that Lena. She was able to take Rowling's writing, which included lots and lots word plays and poems and whatnot, and turn it all into seamless swedish that was always fun to read and matched Rowling's writing damn near perfectly. As a person who's studying translation theory I'm am very impressed and grateful for her hard work.

The second person is the guy that did the cover you can see at the top. Seriously, sweden has the best Harry Potter covers in the world and we have Alvaro Tapia to thank for that. He is awesome at what he does. Simple as that.

Last but not least, opposite actually, I would like to thank my mother for buying this book for me. It allowed me to open up my eyes to the world of books and for that I will be ever grateful. Thank you mom.

So that's it for now. See you next time when we venture into the Chamber of Secrets.


  1. Great rambling!

    I'd just like to add that the Harry Potter fandom is still very much alive. It's just gone from fanfics and speculations to wizard rock and other events. At least in Sweden. There are quite a few Swedish wrockbands active (with regular gigs), and Harry and the Potters did a tour of Sweden this summer. The first Swedish Championship of Quidditch was also arranged, and it will be repeated next year. On top of that a new Potter theme park just opened in Florida. Don't know what's going to happen when the movies stop coming though.

    As for active websites, they include: - Not officially a Harry Potter community, though 90% of the members are old people. - A pretty new community which which has some role-playing aspects to it (including house points). - A site with regular news about Potter-related activities in Sweden.


  2. I just watched HP and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and was saddened (again) because it is over...but your paragraph at the beginning of this blog post touched me, "the magic is still there", and will always be there!! I too grew up with the books and fell in love, without even realizing how much they meant to me until I was much older. I was not very good at the mystery solving, but I love how so much of the magical world is alive and thinking, and the messages will touch my heart forever. Harry Potter is very dear to my heart and I will share it with my children one day.

    Our childhoods are very important to us, and the most meaningful, deep aspects of our childhood stay with us forever.

    The Swedish cover is great!! ;)