Reflections on Harry Potter Turning 20

by Lee Cross

[There’s going to be spoilers – apologies]

It made the news this year, which is a mark of the greatness of J.K. Rowling’s achievement, but Harry Potter has now be around for 20 years! …and honestly I’m amazed because they feel as current now in the popular psyche as they did when my little sister got the box set of the first four for Christmas in 2001.

sorcerers-stoneShe was on the younger side, so while she watched her Crimbo dvd’s (I seem to remember her getting George of the Jungle that year), I spent Christmas and Boxing Day reading …Philosophers StoneChamber and …Prisoner.

No great feat, as I was twenty and had already developed into a prolific reader (although I took two hours off to watch George of the Jungle with the family), and HP-1 was fine. Dumbledore was instantly recognisable as a great character, he just had that magic about him (bit of pun – apologies), like you knew he was also going to be one step ahead of everybody else – even you as the reader.

When you get into Chamber the kids start to take the lead a little more; Harry’s surprising use of Parseltongue, Hermionie being prettified and the ghostly memories of Tom Riddle. Well it’s a good book, but as an adult I burned through it as an after Turkey snack (I actually think ITV were showing ‘Remains of the day’ that year).

Prisoner was my Boxing Day fare, and that was when I thought – holy moly, this is going to be one of those epic story arc’s that people are going to spend a lifetime talking about.

After that came Goblet, which took a few days but cemented completely the idea in my head that I was reading something that was going to step beyond the boundaries of something only readers talked about. Goblet wasn’t waiting to be read, it was going to be read, it was going to make people start reading. To this day I still say it’s a fantastic book.

And from there the true book lovers frustration kicked in, and I had to wait for the next instalment to be published. Time passed, in which I re-read Prisoner and Goblet many, many times (I scanned the first two, but there wasn’t quite enough meat on their bones for an adult reader of my experience), falling more and more in love with the Potterverse (I can’t think of a better way of putting it).

THEN! Order… came out, and I was so utterly, bitterly and completely disappointed. I’m not sure if it was because the proceeding two books were so good, or if I had hyped myself up to much but, for whatever reason, HP-5 just didn’t do it for me. The tone, touch and texture of the characters (particularly Harry) was just all wrong…it felt over-thought.

It’s not a bad book, the duel between Dumbledore and Voldemort is something everyone hoped beyond hope that they would get to see; and JK managed to wipe out her one unquestionable mistake – the time turners (the ability to time-travel is too dominate a plot point, I’ll never get to ask her, but if was granted one question with the greatest of ladies, it would be did she regret there creation?).

Time again passed, finally bringing us Half-Blood and I was forced to swallow down every doubt I’d ever had about the Harry Potter novels. HP-6 isn’t just a great kids book; it is A GREAT BOOK. I’ve read perhaps a thousand books and The Half-blood Prince deserves to be mentioned in the top ten.

Finally the Deathly Hallows came along and wrapped up the series very nicely.

Gosh 20 years, and in the blink of an eye. I’m not sure what else to say. I love Harry Potter, I regret I never got to read about him with a child’s eye, mind and wonder but you can’t have all the luck.

I like to think I have a good understanding of reading and writing, although I’m sure many voices will disagree, but one thing I do know for certain is that J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter novels are an overwhelming force for good in this world.

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