Light reading – the Harry Potter finale

2007-08-23

in Books and literature, Daily updates

Having read the first six Harry Potter books, it seemed only natural to read The Deathly Hallows as well. Without spoiling anything for people who plan to read it, but have not done so yet, I can say that the conclusion mirrored the overall mediocrity of the series – much more notable as a pop culture phenomenon than as books many people are likely to read in twenty years. The most notable contribution they made was probably to encourage children to read. Hopefully, they will go on to read more substantial fantasy series’ such as those of C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, or Philip Pullman.

You have to wonder what Rowling is going to do with herself from now on. Millions of people are likely to read whatever she comes up with next – if she chooses to keep writing – but it’s anyone’s guess whether the next creation will enjoy anything like the widespread and enduring attention the seven Potter books have.

Those trying to maintain ignorance of the book’s contents should not read any further.

The Harry Potter series concluded in a way that was as saccharine as it was predictable. The redemption of Snape, the final dual, and the ridiculously schmaltzy epilogue all seemed more like the end of a mediocre summer film than like the conclusion of a substantial work of fiction. Also, the book seemed written more as a sketch of the film to come and less as a narrative unto itself.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Seth August 23, 2007 at 6:33 pm

Funny, I just blogged about Harry Potter today too. I enjoyed the book, though not as much as some of the others in the series. I agree with you. One columnist described the Harry Potter series as a “gateway drug” to “real” literature.

As to what Rowling will do next, word is she’s writing a detective story set in Edinburgh. That doesn’t sound terribly exciting to me. As a fantasy fan, I’m willing to devour a mediocre fantasy series, but I’m not a fan of the detective/mystery genre. Having said that, I will probably still read whatever she puts out. She does have a powerful imagination, even if it suffers from less than perfect execution on the page.

Neal August 23, 2007 at 10:08 pm

C.S. Lewis? Really? I’d characterize that as more ham fisted evangelism than fantasy.

sasha August 24, 2007 at 11:00 am

“the book seemed written more as a sketch of the film to come and less as a narrative unto itself”
funny that – the whole time I was reading it, I kept thinking ‘this reads like a screenplay.’ I think it was around the fourth of fifth book when she started doing that. Perhaps too much awareness of the magnitude of the franchise? I just remind myself that, because of the 11-13 target demographic, the plot is supposed to be a bit schmaltzy and predictable for a fossil like me. That’s how the kids like them.

Ashley August 24, 2007 at 11:42 am

If you really want young people to read excellent fantasy as myth and the very origins of the novel form itslef they must be pointed towards the Icelandic Sagas. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (not all ham-fisted evangelism) both attended Oxford where they were in literary circles with Icelanders who introduced them to the sagas as literature. Further themes and symbols even names that appear in Tolkien are directly ripped from the sagas. The Lords of the Hringur indeed.

Milan August 25, 2007 at 12:54 pm

Here is Seth’s review.

Sarah August 25, 2007 at 3:46 pm

Some of CS Lewis’ books definately seem like ham-fisted evangelism to me: notably The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Last Battle (where I particularly enjoyed the sexist Christian moralising about how Susan didn’t get to come away to Narnia for a shortcut to heaven because she’d been wearing makeup, talking to boys etc). On the other hand, I didn’t detect any evangelism in The Horse and His Boy, which was my favourite in the series as a child.
However, Harry’s ‘death’ in Deathly Hallows was highly reminiscent of Aslan in TLTWITW, which is indubitably (and intentionally) a ripoff of a very old story fantasy about a Jewish bloke and some Romans: apparently if a saviour goes willingly and peacebly to their death at the hands of evil-doers, resurrection ensues! Either Rowling has become an evangelist at the end (perhaps to make peace with the Christians who’ve condenmed her books because they discuss witchcracft?) or she is such an incompetent writer that the religious theme escaped her.

Megan McArdle August 27, 2007 at 8:53 pm

JK Rowling is not, to put it mildly, known for her seamless plotting or the gripping realism of her characters, most of whom spend the latter books pointlessly withholding information from each other that, if shared, would end the installment somewhere around page ten. But for me, there is another problem with the books, one that has kept me from looking forward to the seventh volume as keenly as I might. I am an economics reporter, and the books are chock full of terrible economics.

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/megan_mcardle/2007/07/harry_potter_the_economics.html

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