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.

10 comments:

tanita davis said...

Yes! That is the type of question I have about all of the books that are so heavily hyped - will the stories hold up?

What a delight that these have.

I am getting ready to do a Diana Wynne Jones reread... and looking forward to the joy of Chrestomanci all over again.

Girl Detective said...

I've never listened to the Dale CDs. We ordered the ones from amazon.co.uk with Stephen Fry, and they're amazing. We recently listened to #1 on a car trip, and were upset that we hadn't brought #2.

Camille said...

Tanita, I have wondered if Hunger Games or The Golden Compass books will hold an audience over time like these have.

Girl Detective: I can only imagine how wonderful Stephen Fry's readings are. Next time!

Jen Robinson said...

Funny, I just had a whim recently to re-read these books, too, Camille. Hard to justify the time, but I have been considering listening to the audiobooks. Thanks for the nudge! Glad you enjoyed it!

Jennifer Morian Frye said...

I absolutely LOVE Jim Dale's reading of these books. I don't think I have listened to the last two, though....sad. I will have to remedy that. I have a special connection with these books. I used to listen to them (at the time only 5 were out) with my father-in-law when he was sick. It was wonderful to read the final two books (both released after his passing) and know that most of his theories were accurate. It has made them that much more intense for me. The audios (and Mr. Dale's voices) will always hold a special place in my heart. I do think these will definitely stand the test of time.

Yxl Ian said...

oh,it's so great,I like Harry Potter~

Judith Smith Sullivan said...

Ahhh Jim Dale! I remember listening to Harry Potty and the Chamber of Secrets with the rest of my family--us four kids, all under the age of 16, and my parents. Usually my mom read out loud to us, but Jim Dale's reading was so excellent, and so delightfully terrifying, that she decided to take a break from the reading. As we listened it grew dark outside and finally it was completely black in the house, just as we reached the scariest part of the book! I could feel my skin crawl!

DJ Stearns said...

That is what makes a great book- one you can revisit over and over and every time see something new. J.K. Rowling has become an author that can resonate through the generations, and I only hope I have a fraction of her amazing talent.

Camille said...

Jennifer,
I agree. There are books that I have listened to that I cannot go back and read. I have to continue them in audiobook form because the narrator's voice is an ingrained part of the story.

Jennifer Morian Frye said...

I finally posted about my re-listening Camille. Thanks for the inspiration, it was just what I needed. :)