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In which we are introduced to Harry Potter, and Harry is introduced to Hogwarts
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: Book 1 - J.K Rowling
Member Name: themoomin
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: Book 1 - J.K Rowling
Date: 23/11/01, updated on 23/11/01 (381 review reads)
Advantages: I was wrong!!!
Disadvantages: Barry Norman's Eyes
Anyway, enough of my inadequacies. A work colleague, shocked to hear of my ignorance, made me borrow the first book. And the second. And the third. And the fourth! So here is my opinion on the first one – only four years late, but what the hey . . .
So just who is Harry Potter?? Well, Harry Potter is a wizard. A ten-year-old wizard. Only, as the story begins, he is as unaware of this fact as I was of him. Sure, weird things happen to him occasionally, things he can’t explain, but as far as he knows he is just an orphan. He lives with his Aunt and Uncle, who think so highly of him they make him sleep in the cupboard under the stairs. His parents were killed in a car crash when he was a baby, a crash which left him with a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead and some disturbing memories that turn into nightmares.
But just as his 11th birthday is approaching, strange thing begins to happen around Harry. Mysterious letters arrive, causing great consternation to his Aunt and Uncle – the dreadful Dursleys. They obviously know something about Harry’s past, as the letters stir them into a state of panic. Eventually a messenger in the shape of the huge and harmless Hagrid spills the beans – young Harry is a wizard but not only that, he is the boy who rid the world of evil Lord Voldemort, and quite famous in wizarding circles. It turns out that Voldemort (or he-who-must-not-be-named) killed Harry’s parents, but for some reason could not dispatch young Harry so easily, and in attempting to blast him to smithereen
s only succeded in destrying most of his own magical dark powers. Hagrid turns out to be the gamekeeper at Hogwarts – a school for Wizards and Witches that young Harry is destined to attend. After filling in the gaps in Harry’s past, Hagrid whisks him off to Diagon Alley to sort out all his school stuff. Here he is introduced into the wonderful magical world of wizardry, and to the fact that here in the Wizard world he is the owner of a small fortune. Kitted out with wand, robes and textbooks, Harry is ready to start his first year at Hogwarts.
The adventure truly begins on platform nine and three quarters. This is the magical entrance to the other world, the world that non-wizarding folk (Muggles) do not want to believe in. Here Harry boards the Hogwarts Express, and sets out to further his education!
The rest of the book takes us through Harry’s first year at Hogwarts. It is an eventful year by any standards . . . as Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione become embroiled in a tangle of secrets centring round the famous Philosopher’s Stone. This stone can not only turn metal into gold, but will also produce the Elixer of Youth. Unsurprisingly, someone (any guesses?) has plans to get their hands on this stone, and good old Harry ends up thwarting the baddies and saving the day! He also finds plenty of time for Quidditch, the crazy game played on broomsticks with 4 balls, 14 players, and a great deal of skill and cunning, and of course attends classes - studying Potions, History of Magic, Charms and Herbology.
In case you, like me, are a Harry virgin, I won’t spoil the plot any more. Suffice it to say that the story is fast-paced, with more twists than spaghetti junction and more surprises than a box of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans.
Oh how I desperately wanted to hate Harry Potter. I wanted to read the book then say ‘well I can’t see what all the fuss is about.
’ I wanted to be able to tell people that it was a kids book, that anyone could have written it, and that as far as I was concerned J K Rowling had just been very lucky.
So I read it. I read it from cover to cover in one go, spending the next day with Barry Norman eyes and a permanent yawn. Then, just to make sure, I read it again. This time I took it a bit slower, reading every word. And lo and behold . . . . . I thought it was brilliant.
A large slice of humble pie duly eaten, here’s what I really think about the phenomenon that is Master Potter:
The story is great. Within the first few pages I found myself lifted out of the Moominhouse and deposited squarely in the centre of another world. A world where Wizards appear on street corners, where owls deliver the mail, and you never know quite what is going to happen next. The characters and places are described perfectly, the images conjured up almost instantly in the mind of the reader. And perhaps best of all, the whole scenario of the book is so fantastical that it is totally believable!
Sure it’s been tried before. Mallory Towers, The Worst Witch, Jennings . . . . . C S Lewis, Roald Dahl and of course J R R Tolkein and even Scooby Doo - Harry Potter owes a great deal to these previous forays into stories of school life and/or magic, stories that have captivated previous generations of children. But despite his illustrious ancestry, Harry Potter is somehow different – it’s as if all the best bits of past ideas have been rolled together to produce one glorious setting, in which the history and ‘family trees’ are as well-thought-out as anything in Middle-Earth.
I found Rowling’s imaginative storytelling greatly enhanced by her style of writing. She has managed to produce a tale that can not only be understood and related to by children, but that also appeals to adults. Without using childish prose or horribly grown-up w
ords, she has struck the balance perfectly and written a book for all generations. And that is no mean feat. Funny, frightening and fast-paced, the main aspects of the story are intricately crafted and surrounded by spin-offs, hints at what is to happen later, and real insight into the characters. The horrible Professor Snape, stuttering Quirrell, huge and hairy Hagrid . . . the traditions and secrets of Hogwarts . . . . even the various weird and wonderful creatures that inhabit this world . . . all are described wonderfully by Rowling.
I could go on (can’t I always?), but I think you get the picture by now. I borrowed this book expecting to be severely disappointed, and am now halfway through reading the latest sequel – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Pure escapism it may be, but I’m glad to say I thoroughly enjoyed my first year at Hogwarts, and would recommend the whole Potter series to anyone. So there.
First Published by Bloomsbury 1997
Paperback price: 6.99
*** If you hurry you might still be able to get all four Potter paperbacks for 9.99 at justgoodbooks.co.uk ***