Monday, August 13, 2007

'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' by J K Rowling

13 August 2007

When I say I have just finished reading 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' by J K Rowling, I guess I am instantly going to divide you into those who groan out loud and those who wonder what took me so long. I've enjoyed all seven Harry Potter books. I can sympathise with those who say the quality of the writing leaves much to be desired and the settings, characters and magical creatures are incredibly derivative, but, by blatantly pinching some of the best elements of classic children's fiction, fantasy and mythology, Rowling has created a cracking good yarn. And I can forgive her much for the wonderful combination of both the broadest scope and the minutest detail in her plotting. It seems to me that the plot drives you through these weighty tomes at a rapid pace - both through the overall story arc of the seven books (written before starting the first novel, apparently) and through impressive attention to detail and consistency. Children can be the most obsessive of all readers and it can be incredibly irritating when the internal logic of a story is broken or an early passing reference is forgotten. I have found all the Harry Potter books incredibly satisfying in how they remember and refer back to the tiniest of details. And none has been so satisfying in this respect as the 'Deathly Hallows' which scrupulously ties up every possible loose end. I came to the book with my own mental checklist of unanswered questions and came away with all items ticked. (I daresay the massive obsessive attention to which this book will be subjected may unearth one or two mistakes or omissions but I was not disappointed.) My main problem with the 'Deathly Hallows' was trying not to read it too quickly. Having lived with these characters for so many years, like many others I was desperate to find out what happens to them - but worried about missing key clues and wanting to prolong the end as long as possible. So I took to reading two or three chapters at a time and then re-reading them before going on - meaning I have now read the whole book twice! (If any of the groaners were still with me I fear I have certainly lost them now!) I can highly recommend this technique: it is amazing how many seemingly insignificant references reveal themselves as invaluable pointers with the benefit of a little hindsight. (Slightly less obsessively, when I have finished a novel I have really enjoyed I am invariably sorry to leave it and sometimes go back and re-read the opening chapter. You would be amazed how fascinating this often proves - try it!) The 'Deathly Hallows' is definitely not a starting point for anyone who has not yet tried the Potter phenomenon: it would make little sense to those who haven't followed the previous books. But for those with at least a passing acquaintance with Harry, Ron, Hermione et al, it is a gripping ride. As with many of the books there are some passages which drag a bit, but when the action takes off it is thrilling - particularly this time as there is no guarantee who, if anyone, will survive. But that would be telling ...



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