My first Harry Potter book. After watching the series of movies I decided it was finally time to go deeper into this world. Why I have avoided it for this long was because I had believed it to be over hyped and rather than following mass culture I ignored it. Why? I will get to that. I really enjoyed “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone”. Reading it is as addictive as people have said it was. I feel like I have been flung back into my youth, back to my days of primary school when I was a child reading the works of Roald Dahl , Enid Blyton, Jenny Nimmo and other children’s story writers. It grabs the imagination in the same way and fills the mind with wonder. Therein lies my criticism I mentioned earlier. I’ve read stories like this before. Why is it that Harry Potter had such massive main stream success that other stories of a similar nature haven’t? I think part of the reason is that there is an underlying mystery in these books, there is a longer thread in the story that still has to be spun and that’s what has grabbed people’s fascination. Who is Harry Potter? It’s cleverly done. The story is funny and so descriptive in a minimal way that keeps the mind active and helps you to flesh out the setting in your mind easily.
Harry’s story seems a little Darker in the book than the first movie. The opening chapter with the Dursleys shows that Harry has a really shi…. unpleasant life that conjures up thoughts of Oliver Twist. Living in the cupboard, getting punched by his cousin constantly, getting a used sock as a Christmas present. Poor chap. His past is also quite dark for a children’s story unlike others I have read before. It is touching and sad how he sits in front of the Mirror of Erised night after night just to glimpse his family, his greatest desire. At this point of the story I felt a great maturity in the writing and it reminded me of a story in Paul Auster’s novel “Oracle Night” in which a character views a picture of his family through a view-master toy night after night and gets lost to it. Here enters Dumbledore who represent the voice of JK Rowling, telling Harry that “it does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live”. This was my favorite quote from the first movie too and it’s so darn true. I sympathize more with this Harry than in the movie. He also comes across as a little more braver and honorable than his movie counterpart.It’s impossible not to like Harry when he is a boy who has never had a proper Birthday or Christmas before. I think anyone reading can’t help but feel something happy inside themselves when Harry experiences something with delight for the first time, be it food, presents, friendship. All the things he never had before which others take for granted. There’s some philosophy there about appreciating the simple moments in life I’m sure.
Unlike the movie, having important dates of the 1st year term at Hogwarts such as Halloween and Christmas shown works well in chapter format and is more interesting than it was represented in the movie which tried to do exactly the same instead of mixing it up a little and moving the plot along. I think Rowling did a good job of representing Secondary school life for children as they are reaching that teens stage and can be more vulnerable and cruel. I remember my school people had bottles smashed over their head, so here’s it’s spells and charms instead then!
Things get wrapped up a bit too nicely at the end of the book. A lot of mysteries are explained in part by Dumbledore even though our main characters spent most of the book trying to figure out what was going on for themselves. In the end it had to be “told” to them. Why couldn’t Dumbledore have explained about Harry’s parents earlier. But that moment in particular is a sad moment when Harry knows why his parents died and why he lived. There is much wisdom spilled by Dumbledore. Basically, old wizards like Dumbledore are awesome. I love pretty much everything they say. Dumbledore has some great quotes in The Philosopher’s Stone. One is near the end with his conversation with Harry. “The Truth.” Dumbledor sighed. “It’s a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution”. One mystery is left untold though, as to why exactly Voldemort wanted to kill Harry.
The one thing I thought the movie did better than the book was the very ending. As the students prepare to leave Hogwarts Harry says he isn’t really going Home. Meaning that with the Dursleys isn’t his home, Hogwarts is. Or to mean that after having his eyes open to another world that where he goes back to is no longer home. In the book Harry just plans to have fun using magic on the Dursleys . The movie’s ending is far more poignant.
I want to continue on this journey with Harry. I finished the movie journey and wanting more I have come to the books, the first of which has now made me want to read all of them! I have come a long way from my first impressions of Harry Potter many years back . I openly mocked it. Now I’m devoted to it and long may it reign.
Favorite Quote: “Humans do have a knack for choosing precisely those things which are worst for them” – Professor Albus Dumbledore