Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling

Oh, the seventh and final Harry Potter book.  This post will probably contain spoilers for a number of previous books, and likely spoilers for this one as well.  Sorry.  Can’t help it.  Don’t know how to talk about Harry Potter without spoilers.  Harry and Ron and Hermione have left school now because they are questing for Horcruxes!  They spend all sorts of time running around the countryside trying to find the damn things, and getting into all sorts of scrapes, and at last, you will be pleased to hear, Voldemort gets defeated and everyone is happy.  Except the ten thousand people who die including Lupin that I specifically said not to die, but JK Rowling did try to soften the blow by making him into a complete jerk in this book.

I remember feeling faintly cheated in this book, because all these things were revealed that we could never have suspected before getting the book.  I slightly wish that J.K. Rowling had mentioned Beedle the Bard, or legends of a wand that always won, or just you know, given more clues about what was going to happen.  That way, when we got to this book, the massive shit-tons of exposition would have felt less like exposition, and more like an expansion on things we already knew.  Like that time in the fifth book where Dumbledore told Harry all about the prophecy and that business – we had heard a lot of it before, so it felt fair.  Some of the stuff in this book didn’t feel fair.

That said, I have a hard time feeling critical of this book, because I went all through high school and college with these characters, and now they’re all grown up and fighting evil!  Particularly when it’s characters I didn’t care for much at first, and grew to love – Luna, Neville, Ginny, Dobby – I don’t know, I just feel pleased with them for being amazing.  (Except Ginny, who the only thing she gets to do in this book is make out with Harry on his birthday, “kissing him as she’d never kissed him before”, which can I just say, I DO NOT KNOW WHAT THAT CAN POSSIBLY MEAN.  Whatever, Ginny.  Fight some damn evil.  I liked you so much in the sixth book.)  Neville defeating the snake is one of my favorite moments in the seventh book.

…I really wish the seventh book weren’t already published.  I am sad with no new Harry Potter books coming out ever.  Wasn’t it fun, waiting for the next book to come out?  And having lots of speculation and sometimes proving to be absolutely spot-on perfectly correct, like I was about Snape and Lily LIKE A GENIUS?

Random thoughts:

  • For the first quarter of this book, I was writing down my reactions because I couldn’t shriek them at my sisters.  Here’s what I wrote when I got to Rita Skeeter’s mean article about Dumbledore: “Rita Skeeter, I hope you drown in a river and don’t you shatter my illusions about Dumbledore or I WILL CUT YOU.  He was the BEST MAN EVER.”
  • Harry refusing to give an inch to Scrimgeour even when Scrimgeour’s being super duper intimidating.  I can never have too much of this.  When Scrimgeour was all “It’s time you learned some respect!” and Harry was all “It’s time you earned it,” I had a fantastically hard time not shrieking “Harry FTW!” at my sisters, who were reading it at the same time but maybe didn’t want to be disturbed by my shrieking.  Not quite as good as the “Dumbledore’s man through and through” bit – oh dear, getting teary – but pretty good.  Aw, Harry.
  • Sirius’s posters of Muggle girls in bikinis.  Oh that made me love him so much.  I wish Sirius were still around.  I love Sirius.  Also, when Harry found that letter from his mum, that was the first time I cried in this book.
  • Ron rescuing Harry from the Horcrux.  Excellent, excellent scene; and no, Ron, you don’t deserve to get forgiven straight away.  I was all, This is it, this is it, and apparently so was Ron, but props to Hermione for not wanting to be BFFs again straight away.
  • The first time I read this, I didn’t shed a tear for Dobby.  I don’t know why.  That whole thing is incredibly sad, digging the grave, and Luna thanking him.  When I reread it, I cried and cried and cried.  I think that first time, I was just all keyed up from the past scene and expecting someone major to die, and I was just so relieved that it wasn’t Ron.  J.K. Rowling spent this whole book screwing around with me, pretending Hagrid was going to die, and I did not appreciate it
  • I also didn’t appreciate Harry using the Cruciatus Curse.  That’s great, Harry.  You’ve spent this whole being all like, blah blah blah don’t kill anybody blah, and you decide to go with it now just because someone spits at Professor McGonagall?  Apart from the fact that you have spent the last four books talking about how Unforgivable this Curse is (and the Imperius one – Harry, get a grip, please), I feel like you weren’t really close enough with McGonagall to give a crap if someone disrespects her.  Plus, if you are using Unforgivable Curses, how are you any better than the Death Eaters?
  • Snape’s memories of Lily.  I WAS SO RIGHT IN EVERY WAY.  I even brought up to my sister at one point the possibility that the chapter in the fifth book about “Snape’s worst memory” was actually Snape’s worst memory.  As in, the moment when his relationship with Lily became impossible; but whichever sister it was pooh-poohed my notion.  I WAS RIGHT ABOUT THAT TOO.  I love being right.
  • Dumbledore & Grindelwald.  Love it.  I loved that we got to see Dumbledore one last time at the end of this book, because I miss Dumbledore, being all comforting and wise and explaining everything.  It sort of crushed me when Dumbledore and Harry were talking about Grindelwald, and how he lied to Voldemort about the Wand, and Dumbledore was all, So I guess he didn’t want Voldemort to get it, and Harry was all, Or maybe he wanted to stop him breaking into your tomb, and Dumbledore was all teary.  Oh Dumbledore, honey.
  • Plus, “It may be happening in your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it isn’t real?”  Word.
  • Harry’s parents walking him to his death.  And then Hagrid carrying Harry’s body.  I am always such a mess at this point in the book.  Doesn’t help (crying-wise – obviously it helps plotwise) that:
  • Neville defeats the snake!  Like he said to Harry that he would!  Neville is such my hero.  Darling brave Neville, you have grown up so much since the days of losing your toad.
  • Mrs. Weasley, way to use a naughty word and then kill Bellatrix dead like a badass.  Obviously we should have gotten Mrs. Weasley angry a few books ago.  Like, that other time Bellatrix was trying to kill her children, in the Department of Mysteries, BEFORE BELLATRIX KILLED SIRIUS.
  • I would have liked to see some mention of George Weasley in the epilogue.  I feel like J.K. Rowling could have achieved a better effect by having Percy die, rather than Fred – that works, you know, as far as the senselessness of death, because he had only just come back, and it would still have been terribly sad.  Whereas when it was Fred, it was like, J.K. Rowling is just screwing with us (esp. because George lost an ear earlier and we were all like, well, grand, the Weasley twin misfortune has come and is now over – she did that on purpose!  On purpose!  Meanie-face!).  But anyway, if she had to kill Fred Weasley (she killed three of the four people I asked her not to kill, though of all of them I think I most needed Hagrid to survive, just for Harry’s sake), she should have mentioned George in the epilogue.

Booking Through Thursday

I like this one:

This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

So here are my fifteen books that will always stick with me, more or less in the order in which they entered my life:

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
Jane Eyre
, Charlotte Bronte
Emily Climbs, L.M .Montgomery
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
Macbeth
, William Shakespeare
The Chosen
, Chaim Potok
The Color Purple
, Alice Walker
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
, J.K. Rowling
Greensleeves
, Eloise Jarvis McGraw
American Gods, Neil Gaiman
The Invention of Love, Tom Stoppard
I Capture the Castle
, Dodie Smith
Showings
, Julian of Norwich
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Salman Rushdie

These are all books that left me breathless.  Is that what we were after?

The Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling

If you are about to ask, “Jenny, did you get this book for only two pounds at the Charing Cross Road Borders, along with a number of other kids’ books that were, at 3 for 2, absolutely irresistible?”, then the answer is yes.  Yes, I did.  And I was really pleased about it, I can tell you.  And I also couldn’t resist buying a great big heavy book all about writing Doctor Who, because I am interested in how people write TV shows.  I mean how the process works.  All very interesting.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard is another of those wee books J.K. Rowling writes for charities, bless her, and it’s quite charming.  Not because of the stories themselves – nothing wrong with them, it’s just tricky to write a wonderful fairy tale, and even trickier when you’re not operating within traditional fairy tale conventions, and even trickier yet still when you are writing fairy tales purportedly for an audience comprised of witches and wizards.  The stories are enjoyable enough, but what’s really fun is Dumbledore’s commentary on them.  Dumbledore makes me smile.  I miss Dumbledore.  Why are there not more Harry Potter books than there are?  I miss them all actually.  And waiting for new ones to come out.  That was fun.  Why can’t we have that bit over again?

Anyway, Dumbledore’s commentary – he spends some time telling amusing stories about the stories (ah, metafiction, I love you when you do not disappoint and crush me), and even talks about a woman who supposedly rewrote these stories in dreadful twee ways.  She reminded me of Enid Blyton.

I’ve never read Enid Blyton.  Every time I pick up one of her books and glance at it, it seems so sweety-sweet that I feel sick to my stomach and have to put it down straightaway.  Am I being unfair to Ms. Blyton?  Or are her books genuinely that sweety-sweet?  Or, third option, do her books have merit as long as you read them for the first time when you are quite young?  Some books are like this and I sometimes don’t hold it against them.  I am hoping it is the second or third thing, because if I’m being unfair, I don’t know how I’m going to force myself to read her books.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling

I’m very emotional.  I – I – I have so many, so very many, feelings.

This was the only one of the books I waited for but not with my family.  When the sixth book came out, I was doing a month in London, which was amazing and I saw like twelve plays that month, but it also meant that I got my book from a bookshop in Croydon.  Aggravating melodramatic liar Frank Harris is from Croydon.  That’s all I will say.  Also, nobody stayed up with me to read it.  I was with (a different) Jane, and she and I and this other girl read the first three chapters out loud to each other, which was fun – I can vividly remember Hannah’s voice saying “Kreacher won’t, Kreacher won’t, Kreacher won’t!” – but then everyone went to bed except me.  In a way this was good because I could shriek and gasp all I wanted to without annoying anybody, but in another way it was sad because there was no one awake to say “HOLY SHIT SNAPE IS THE DADA TEACHER!”

So let me just take this opportunity to say, “HOLY SHIT!  SNAPE IS THE DADA TEACHER!” because reading this book for the fourth or so time has done nothing to dim the anxiety I feel when Dumbledore makes that particular announcement.

In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, things are getting nastier.  People you’ve heard about are dying suddenly, Death Eaters are all around, and Snape is acting shifty (for a change).  Malfoy’s got some top-secret Evil Project to do, but Harry’s the only one who seems concerned about this.  Dumbledore is giving Harry private lessons in which he shows him memories about Voldemort that he has collected, which is cool.  I don’t really know how to summarize the plot, since the fifth and sixth books are more just rising evil than a self-contained mystery, the way the earlier books are.  Suffice it to say, evil is rising.  The rest is spoilers.

The sixth is my second favorite of the books, just after the third.  Sometimes I think I like it even better than the third.  The adverbs don’t actually get any better, but a lot of fun stuff happens – the scene with Dumbledore at the Dursley house, at the beginning of this book, has gone on my favorite scenes list, for instance.  I love the entire Ron-Lavender plotline, which never fails to make me laugh.  It’s nice to see Harry doing well in Potions for a change – better he have an asshat Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, since he’s already brilliant in that area.  Besides which, this is the first book in which Harry really seems like an adult, and I feel very proud of him.  His instincts are good, and he’s gotten better at reporting weird things to teachers and other adults when he sees them.  (I think Dumbledore should have been straight with him about Malfoy.)  The scene in the middle where he puts Scrimgeour in his place is another favorite.  Sometimes I read it when I am feeling blue.

My family definitely knew Snape was in love with Lily by now.  My mother was certain about it by the time the fifth book came out, and this Lily being brilliant at Potions business just clinched it for us.  Mumsy spent a lot of time coming up with really maudlin scenarios for Snape to confess to Harry that he had loved Lily.  Her favorite one involved Snape giving his life for Harry and then in the throes of death imagining that he was talking to Lily instead of Harry (because of the eyes) and choking out “I did it, Lily – I saved your son – I did what I promised – ” Imagine how pleased she was at Snape’s real death scene in the seventh book.  I knew straight away that Snape was not really evil, and Dumbledore was not pleading for mercy.  I mean almost straight away.  I had a moment of pure and total consuming fury when I first read it, but then I was like, Now, Jenny, if Dumbledore asked him to kill him it doesn’t count as murder, so you cut that out.  I was still really mad at Snape.  I enjoy being mad at vile Snape.

And oh, how sad Dumbledore’s funeral was!  When Hagrid cried and cried – it hurt my heart.  Especially when Harry said the thing to Scrimgeour about Dumbledore’s not really being gone from Hogwarts, and that he was Dumbledore’s man through and through.  It gets me every time.

I am so emotional.  Obama inspirationally won the election, and we came very close to beating Alabama at the game that I ATTENDED, and Dumbledore died.  What a weepy week for Jenny.

Is it just me

…or does today feel like the first chapter of the first Harry Potter book?  I feel like setting off fireworks and sending owls to people.  I want to hug conservatives and say “Even Republicans like yourself should be celebrating on this happy, happy day!”

Enjoy history while it’s happening, everyone!

Update

Henry VI, Part II, is so much better than Henry VI, Part I.  I just wanted to mention that.  I’m not done with it yet but it’s way, way, way better than the first part.  I’m not saying it’s the best play I’ve ever read, but I’m enjoying it, and I can envision a future in which I might read it again just for fun sometime.  There’s so much political intrigue!  Plus, shades of future plays – particularly Macbeth.  Gloucester’s wife is extremely ambitious, and there are prophecies that are rather cryptic.  One contains the line “Let him shun castles”, which for some reason I really like.  Let him shun castles.

But soon I will review the whole thing.  Also the sixth Harry Potter book.  I’m just at the bit where Scrimgeour comes to visit, and Harry’s all, “If you’re smart, you won’t mess with Dumbledore” and Scrimgeour’s all “I see you’re Dumbledore’s man through and through” and Harry’s all “Yes.  That is right.”  Oh.  This makes Dumbledore teary, and me, too.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling

I saw this graph one time on something connected with the Lemony Snicket books, and it showed how as time went on, the number of fortunate events decreased. And that is what I always think of when I read the fifth Harry Potter book. It contains so many depressing things – dementors, Umbridge, writing lines in blood, everyone thinking Harry is crazy, an acknowledgement of Harry’s psychological issues, Cho Chang – and the end makes me feel so very, very sad, for Harry and for Dumbledore. I stayed up until midnight for this book when it came out, at the Bongs & Noodles near my place, which was fun because of the big party they were having. I kept running into people from my high school who tried to pretend they weren’t there for the Harry Potter book but I KNEW BETTER. And the cover was so cool and mysterious! And then once we got our books, me and my big sister and our friend Jane went back to Jane’s house to read it, and they both got cross at me if I made a single noise when I was reading. And Jane’s dogs got really tired because we never turned the lights off, and they kept falling over when they tried to walk. It was good times.

I mean, sort of. If you ignore how sad this book is. In this one, Voldemort’s back, and nobody believes it. Harry and Dumbledore are totally discredited in the wizarding world, and everyone is constantly telling lies, repressing stories about dreadful things happening, and punishing Harry when he tries to tell the truth about Voldemort. There is a new awful Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher called Dolores Awful Umbridge, who spends her time turning Hogwarts into a Fascist state. Snape continues being horrible to Harry, and we sort of find out why. Harry’s psychic connection with Voldemort deepens (ugh), and Hagrid makes Harry’s life harder (again) (but I still love him). A few cheerful things happen, but they are few and far between, and they are quickly cancelled out by all the awful things that follow in their wake.

The adverbs in this book hurt me. I tried not to notice them but it was difficult when they were clawing free of the page and burrowing into my eyeballs. My recollection is that the sixth book isn’t as bad about this, but we’ll see. I feel like the adverbs in this book are worse than they’ve been.

My mother doesn’t like it when Harry yells at everybody all through this book. I kind of do. I mean, not the all-caps business, which just shouldn’t be allowed, but I feel that at this point, he’s entitled to a little anger. You know, the kid loses his parents, gets raised by assholes in total ignorance of his heritage, and when he does go off to wizard school and escape from the jerks that didn’t parent him properly, the adults in his life continue to not parent him, not even managing to protect him from Dark wizards trying to kill him (I feel guilty even writing this because I was so sniffly when I was reading the bit about how guilty Dumbledore feels about Harry at the end of this book), and then, when the person who killed his parents returns to start killing more people, everyone he knows quits talking to him for half the summer. Oh, and the wizarding world staunchly denies that his very traumatic experience of watching Voldemort return ever happened. So hey. I’d be mad too.

(Apparently growing up with these books has made me very protective of Harry.)

Now I will have spoilers.

On rereading, I find myself much fonder of Luna Lovegood, who grew on me in the sixth book after I originally completely loathed her (how did I ever loathe her? I’m so weird). I find Umbridge and Snape’s nastiness with Harry actually more upsetting now than I did originally, because I know that Umbridge is never getting her comeuppance, and because I feel like Snape could really have made more of an effort to be nice to Lily’s kid, especially when the kid in question is going through a very hard time with hostility on all sides. That jerk of a Snape. Lily’s looking down from heaven and saying You asshole. I found it incredibly woeful when Lupin told Mrs. Weasley that of course Ron and Ginny would be taken care of if something happened to the Weasley parents. In light of what I know is going to happen to Lupin, that is rather depressing.

On the positive side, I love their top-secret underground Defense Against the Dark Arts Group. I love it when Fred and George take off for good, and everyone in the school works to sabotage Umbridge and her reign of terror (that writing lines in your own blood thing is damn creepy, I must say). I am pleased each time I read the scene where Dumbledore fights off all the Aurors and goes on the run. As much as it pains me, I am interested in the scene from Snape’s memory with James and Sirius – because, I hate him, but it’s about time we found out some extenuating circumstances about Snape. And I am glad about how Hermione confronts Harry about his “saving-people thing”. She’s so clever and perceptive, and if Harry had just damn well listened to her, Sirius wouldn’t have died. So it was nice to have that out there.

I have not yet reconciled myself to the fact that Sirius dies. I cry every time I read that scene. My own father’s so lovely! Imagine having no father and then when you finally acquire a father figure who, okay, has some issues to work out, but nevertheless is devoted to you, HE DIES. It’s so unfair. Poor Sirius. Poor Harry. Actually, the sequence in the Department of Mysteries is a tense and upsetting sequence. Everyone is so brave, and particularly darling Neville is so brave! Oh, when he says that Harry’s not alone, he’s got Neville, and when, oh, Neville, when he tells him not to give them the prophecy, and…

Suffice it to say that – this always happens – I started crying when Neville starts being so brave and wonderful, and I carried right on crying through Sirius’s death, Dumbledore’s fight with Voldemort, and especially all through the part where Dumbledore is explaining everything to Harry. Just don’t even talk about how many tissues had piled up next to me by the time he told him why he didn’t make him a prefect. Oh, right, and at the exact second when I managed to begin drying my eyes, I got to the bit where Harry finds the mirror, and then just when I was feeling proud that I didn’t cry when Harry talks to Nearly Headless Nick, I got to the part where he talks to Luna, and that destroyed me all over again.

…I have a lot of feelings.  The more of these books I read the more emotional I get.  I’m going to have a thing or two to say about Rufus Scrimgeour after I read the sixth book.