Welcome to my #summersurvival project, where I’m rereading my favorite book series of all time for the first time since the 7th book came out 8 years ago. I’ve roped my friend Hanna into doing this with me, and rather than writing coherent reviews (I’m way too emotionally invested for that to be possible) I’ll be posting our (slightly edited for clarity) e-mail conversations that we have as the reading is in progress.
From: Kathryn – To: Hanna – June 12
I’m about 100 pages (ish) into the book and I just got to Hogwarts, I know there is a lot of backstory to establish but I’m surprised. The book is only 300ish pages long, and the parts at school loom so largely in my head that I thought they took up more of the story.
Other than that my biggest impression is that he is so young! I think I knew he was 11, but having not read it since I was a teenager I didn’t really think of the fact that at the beginning with all of the horrible Dursley b.s. he’s 10! Heartbreaking.
Side note: Smelting is the best name for a fake British boarding school, and the uniform/stick is just such a great comic touch.
Harry Melling as Dudley Dursley in his Smelting uniform, complete with stick
From Hanna – To: Kathryn – June 12
I’m just off the Hogwarts Express – same spot! First time around, I read it in about 24 hours; this time, it took me an hour to read about a third of the book, so looks like I should match my rate 🙂
My grandparents gave me the book for my 10th birthday (no memory of this lol), and they’ve both passed away since, so their inscription made me a little teary…
But yes, SO young! I had forgotten so many of the little details, like how Aunt P kept on cutting Harry’s hair but it would just grow back immediately. I also love the details that we didn’t know to care about, like Hagrid borrowing Sirius Black’s motorcycle to bring baby Harry to the Dursleys, and Scabbers (Wormtail) biting Malfoy on the train when he insulted James Potter.
I’m also so happy that seeing the movies hasn’t totally muddled my internal images of the characters. Book 1 Hermione still has the buck teeth of not Emma Watson, and Ron is not quite as cute as little Rupert Grint.
I also totally never processed just how horrible the Dursleys are to Harry – like, protective services horrible – and, like you said, how young he was to deal with all of that. The Smelting stick is fucking amazing though.
From: Kathryn – To: Hanna – June 13, 2015
I’m a little jealous the actors haven’t affected your images of the characters as much. Mine have definitely changed (except or Neville, but I think that’s because my brain can’t get rid of the picture of what that actor looks like now which obviously doesn’t fit the early falling all over himself all the time boy.)
I’m about 2/3s through now (and am working until 2 at the seminary library, where nothing is happening so I’ll probably be done today) and I just wanted to note that she does an amazing job of describing what it’s like to start at boarding school. I know this is very specific to me, but I think it’s also true of the first time you go away from home in general. There’s great description of how they get lost and then celebrate the first time that they don’t. The first week seems to last forever and then suddenly it’s two months later, which definitely rings true for me. Anyway, it’s a little thing that I don’t think I could have appreciated fully as a 12 year old reading this the first time.
For those who don’t know, this is what Neville (Matthew Lewis) looks like now.
From: Kathryn – To: Hanna – June 13
Sorry for the 2 e-mails in a row, but I’m done! I have two main thoughts about the ending:
1-JK writes action really well, I obviously knew the big twist but I still kept flipping the pages as fast as I could.
2-Dumbledore is amazing and all, but should we really be trusting him with children? “Yeah the most powerful evil wizard ever is trying to get the source of immortality from my school, I should probably let an 11 year old boy handle that.”
From: Hanna – To: Kathryn – June 15
Some thoughts, in no particular order:
–I am so with you on JK Rowling’s skill – I think that in all of the Pottermania, something that started to get lost was that she’s just a damn good writer. I did notice a lot of comma splices, which I know don’t bother you / it bothers you more that people are bothered by them 🙂
–Over the years, I had started to think of HP 1 as a good book only in that it introduced us to the amazing world of HP. I was pleasantly surprised by how great it was, in and of itself. Excellent character development, etc.
–I miss the carefree days when the House Cup was super important, but was sad at how little Dumbledore action there was. But yeah, totally with you on Dumbledore’s (seeming) total lack of judgment. Maybe that’s one reason why HP appeals to kids – at age 11, we all think that we could totally take on Voldemort (or Muggle equivalent), if only we had an adult as awesome as Dumbledore who let us do so.
–JK Rowling explicitly describes Dean Thomas as Black (with a capital B, no less), but lets us assume that the Patils are Indian. No real thought on this, just an observation. Also, the actor who plays Dean Thomas is beautiful now, and his name is Alfie:
Oh I know, he’s on How To Get Away With Murder…and he’s amazing
Also, I’m just really happy that we’re doing this.
I am too Hanna, I am too! And if any of the rest of you want to join in our reading fun I would love that!