Friday, August 10, 2012

Revisiting Harry Potter

As a girl, I wore out the binding and covers to many books on my childhood bookshelves by frequently re-reading my favorite books. There are members of my family who read Lord of the Rings annually. The exhausted, almost non-existant binding of entling no. 3's copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1) is the stuff of family legend and lore.

As what passes for a grown up now though, I rarely revisit a book. Too many books so little time, as the saying goes.

To my surprise, I have spent my summer listening to Jim Dale's readings of the Harry Potter books. It began early in the summer with an inability to settle on a book to read. I started many, only finished and enjoyed a few. I have a summer book club assignment to read George Eliot's Middlemarch, which I am over a third of the way through and enjoying but...

I felt an overwhelming desire to visit with Harry, Hermione and Ron again.  I have joined Pottermore but have not invested much time there to understand it.  I re-read the books in a sporadic fashion over the years, usually prompted by the pending release of a new volume in the series or in preparation for a  movie's premier. I have never worked all the way through from book one to book seven before. That is what I did this summer. The experience rewarded me with new insight into the story arc overall, renewed feelings of love and kinship for the characters and awareness of details and events that I overlooked or forgot from my previous readings.

As I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4) I chuckled over the Ministry of Magic's preparations for the Quidditch World Cup while I was also hearing about the difficulties of running the Olympic Games in London. The lighting of the Olympic flame happened as the Goblet of Fire kicked off the Tri-Wizard Tournament.  I found new thought provoking links to my faith in the stories that did not have the same meaning to me in my previous reads.

As I listened I found myself marveling at how timely and timeless Rowling's themes are. I was struck anew at how much I enjoyed the movies but how some of the movie's shortcuts and images had overwritten the books in my imagination. Even though I was only listening to the books I found Mary GrandPré's iconic illustrations coming to mind at different points.

As I finished the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)I found myself quite content with its place in the narrative. It had seemed oddly tacked on the first time I read the book but today I was perfectly happy with every aspect of it. As I listened to the last sentences about Severus Snape and Harry's scar I enjoyed that happy experience of a book making me cry.

Even though I continue to circulate the books to students at the different school libraries where I work, I have wondered if Harry's story will continue to call to readers without the media buzz, the midnight bookstore events and movie celebrations that were such a part of my family's life over the years.,  My experience this summer has assured me that Rowling created something classic and timeless and fine with these books. Like Tolkien, the stories hold up to re-reading and bless the reader with new insights and experiences along the way.