Saturday, 11 April 2009

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

Read: July 2007

So after a decade of adventures with our adolescent wizard friends, the Harry Potter chronicles draw to a close. All those years of internet chat, speculation, and anticipation, and finally the answers are revealed. Where exactly are all the Horcruxes? Which side is Snape really on? Will Ron and Hermione finally get together? If 'neither can live, while the other survives,' and their dual core wands cannot fight each other, then exactly how is this whole mess going to be resolved? Is Harry going to push Voldemort down the stairs? These questions and many more were flying through my brain as I eagerly awaited the midnight launch. When the book arrived I have to confess to pinching a copy from the boxes, covering it with a Half Blood Prince dust jacket, and reading feverishly all afternoon long. I could easily have continued reading all night, but there was a party to organise, and I had a Dobby costume to devise.

The launch of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows stands out as the most fun I had in my career as a bookseller. Such concentrated high spirit and excitement is something that does not come along every day and I am privileged to have experienced it. For this alone, Harry Potter should be celebrated.

The plot itself careers around the world like a stray snitch, with more adventures and battles than any book I have ever read. There seems to be a quota of death and destruction to be filled, every one of the sub characters we have met along the way has to play some role in the events that take place, and we cannot reach the end until one final lesson in humility has been learnt. Rowling kills off characters with delightful disdain: instantly, undramatically, and with only a small splattering of mourning. There is not time. It all becomes a little farcical in the end. There is just too much happening, and the pacing becomes an issue. Deathly Hallows needs a calm before the storm, a chapter or two of quiet introspection before the epic final battle. Because it doesn’t have this, come the end I was too tired to emotionally engage with the conclusion. It is a momentous and moving ending, but after so much has happened, I found it hard to take it all in.

And this is not the time for rants, but the epilogue: why? I don't know, I really don't. For an author who was always willing to dig the knife in to our favourite characters and question readers' sensibilities, this pointless exercise in cathartic claptrap seems to question everything which the Harry Potter books did to push children's literature forward. I do not need to know that all my little friends lived happy lives with all their dreams coming true. That epilogue almost ruins my perception of the entire rest of the books.

But perhaps this sounds too harsh. When it comes down to it, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the culmination to a gargantuan effort of storytelling, and if there is too much to reasonably tell in one book, then so be it. All the familiar characters, little jokes, and old tensions are here, and with it all drawing to a final close, there is a note of sadness which every reader brings to the action. Rowling finds an ingenious way to tie it all together, and a mythology to back this all up. ‘The Tale of the Three Brothers’, and the subsequent legend of the Deathly Hallows brings us back to the mythology which is at the heart of the entire series. Harry, Ron, and Hermione's journey takes them away from the safety and structure of Hogwarts and allows them once more to develop as interesting and rounded characters. Dumbledore has one final posthumous trick up his sleeve, and there is even a conclusion to the long running mystery of Snape's loyalty. This is not my favourite of the Harry Potter series, but it wraps things up well and if you have loved the other books in this series, then you simply have to read it. After all, even a less than perfect Harry Potter novel is a lot more fun than many other books.

7 out of 10

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