“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone. Twenty years is a long time. Twenty years ago, Bill Clinton was US President; Tony Blair stormed to victory in the UK General Election on a mandate of things only being able to get better; Katrina and The Waves won the Eurovision song contest. And a book by unknown author, J.K Rowling, called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published. It’s impossible now to imagine a world without Harry, Ron and Hermione, and it’s impossible to let this twentieth anniversary go by without a moment of reflection on the impact of the franchise. In 1997, Bloomsbury ran an initial print run of 1000 books for their new release. In January of this year, the seven books of the series had sold nearly 500 million copies worldwide. So what is it about the series that has made it so successful? When you listen to people talk about Harry Potter, the first thing you notice is a sense of belonging. The books resonated with people on a personal level. They taught us that it is ok to be yourself, to be different, and that people are incredibly complex. Fred and George are class clowns, but also successful entrepreneurs, and incredibly brave. Luna Lovegood doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. She is completely true to herself. Neville Longbottom is terrified most of the time, but it doesn’t stop him fighting to save the world. The women are smart and daring, and unashamedly so. Readers found heroes and friends within the pages, and it kept them coming back for more. In the way that good fantasy fiction does, it shone a light on our own world. The slavery of the house elves, the complexity of good and evil. This isn’t just a series about witches and wizards, it’s so much more complex than that. And it doesn’t shy away from it. It was children’s fiction which didn’t talk down to children. No wonder they loved it. It generated a passion for reading in children and young adults who had never picked up a book before. How magical is that? Who could forget the lines of fans queuing up outside bookstores on publication days, dressed up as every conceivable character. And it spoke to adults too. As I alluded to in our review of The Philosopher’s Stone, it is a nostalgic read. But it’s also dark, challenges preconceptions, and generally makes adults think about the world around them, just like it did its younger readers. And it still has the power to bewitch. Last year, I volunteered at an event run by Felixstowe Library on Harry Potter Night. Actors were dressed up as Hagrid, Snape, Professor Trelawney and Dumbledore, and the entrance was made up to look like Platform 9 3/4. AS we were preparing for the influx of children, Hagrid walked past the doors, and a boy of about seven gasped “It’s Hagrid!”. The magic lives on in the next generation. The franchise is now so much bigger than the books. The films have been some of the most successful of all times, grossing over $8.5 billion at the box office. And with further films yet to be released, including a sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, due out in 2018, they aren’t done yet. What I find incredible when I re-read the books is how the actors have become synonymous with their characters. It’s difficult to picture Harry without thinking of Daniel Radcliffe, or think of Severus Snape without imagining the late, great Alan Rickman. Currently in the West End, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is pulling in the audiences, with tickets harder to grab hold of than a snitch on a particularly stormy day. Meanwhile, you can tour the studios, walk down Diagon Ally, see the Hogwarts Express, drink Butterbeer, eat Every Flavour Beans (including the ear wax ones), even buy 4 Privet Drive (for just shy of £500,000). Who could have imagined this in 1997? Who knows what the future holds for the franchise. If pottermore.com has taught us anything, it’s that JK Rowling has an unlimited supply of stories, myths and legends. One thing is for certain. Harry Potter will still be read and loved, not only by those of us who love it now, but by future generations too. Always.
Latest Blog Posts
Eddie Chapman has been stuck for hours in a traffic jam, in the heat. There are no signs of the emergency services turning up so eventually he decides to abandon his car and run home. He passes accidents along the highway, trees along the edge of a stream that have been burnt, and the water in the stream bed is gone. Something is very wrong. When he arrives home, the power is out throughout his whole neighbourhood and there is no running water. As his wife Laura finally gets home through similar problems, the pair and their neighbours start to suffer the effects of the violent heat and limited liquid, and the terrifying realisation that no one may be coming to help. Civilisation starts to breakdown as confusion, fear and hallucinations set in. Eddie realises that nothing else matters than that he and Laura should live - not even the secret shame she's carried for years. This is about as harsh and dystopian as it gets. If you liked Cormac McCarthy's The Road then this will be right up your street (forgive the pun - I can't help myself!) It differs in a lot of ways, for me the most striking is the visual setting. The Road is grey and oppressive whereas in this book there is plenty of sun ... but plenty of contrast too as their sleeping patterns are so disrupted that a lot of time is spent in the night. The prose is more colourful too. The key to this working so well though is the characters, Eddie is completely believable. Although his view of what's happening becomes less and less reliable and he does things that I'm betting he never would have dreamed he'd do before the disaster. Get yourself a copy of this - and while you're buying stuff don't forget to stock up on water just in case! 4 Bites NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews
And so we come to the end of our reread and review of the Harry Potter series to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of The Philosopher's Stone... The Deathly Hallows. It's often considered to be one of the best books and it is certainly a fan favourite. Equally the film version(s) is considered to be one of the best of the series.... it's certainly one of my favourites. So how does it compare? Deathly Hallows is a pretty hefty book at 607 pages and was split into 2 films, a slightly controversial decision at the time but fairly standard for book to film adaptations (Can we mention The Hobbit yet?!) By and large the film did a pretty good job of parsing the epic story into a manageable time frame although it did necessitate leaving out a lot of the sub plots, for example, Dumbledore's family background. I actually thought that the plots that were left out were chosen well, and the film series had been leaving out bits and pieces throughout which meant you couldn't have everything a fan might want! One of the things I loved about the book was the focus on the friendship of the central Trio. It really highlighted that friendship can be everlasting and yet still take work. Ron's abandonment of Harry and Hermione, although hurried along by the Horcrux, had been foreshadowed in every book and I thought Rowling dealt with it beautifully- both from understanding Ron's point of view and also dealing with the burden it placed on Hermione. The film added an extra dimension to this with the addition of the dance scene with Harry and Hermione. It's difficult to get across the deep friendship between Harry and Hermione on film, particularly when so many other film adaptations have a love triangle at the heart of their romantic plot and I thought this scene, although not in the book at all, did an excellent job. Ron's return rewarded my faith in the friendship between the Trio and again, I felt the film covered the situation equally as well as the book. I remember feeling very relieved when I read that scene in the book... of course JK Rowling wouldn't split up the Trio... not now, not when they need each other all the more!! My favourite character in this book (and film actually) was Neville. Oh Neville, you who could have been the Chosen One, how I love your bravery! From book 1 where you stand up to your friends to book 7 where you stand up to the most evil and dangerous wizard, you prove over and over that you are a true Gryffindor! In both the book and the films, little hints are dropped about Neville's brave deeds- trying to steal the Sword of Gryffindor, refusing to obey the Carrows and protecting younger students, undergoing the Cruciatus Curse (particularly daunting for Neville given his parents' fate) and finally going in to hiding to continue the fight. Once the action gets to Hogwarts, his bravery really ramps up. His standing up to Voldemort at a time when hope was lost was braver by far than his dispatching of Nagini but both events showed just how far Neville had come from the boy who lost his toad (whatever did happen to Trevor?). I was really pleased that they didn't cut Neville's bravery from the film, although it was a tad altered. (On a side note, my dad always thought that it would have been a much better story had Neville turned out to be the Chosen One rather than Harry- views??) I can't write a review of The Deathly Hallows without mentioning the epilogue. It's a particularly controversial aspect of the last novel with some hailing the chance to see what happens to everyone, and some deriding it as an example of fan fiction tropes of the worst kind. I fall somewhere in the middle. I do like that the series doesn't just end with the fall of Voldemort but I can't help wishing that we could see some of the immediate aftermath, it would interest me much more than knowing what Ginny and Harry's kids are called (FYI, dreadful names....). It did raise a couple of questions- why exactly was Draco forgiven and not sent to Azkaban, being the one foremost in my mind! I quite liked the scene in the film, but I actually felt it was more out of place in the film than it was in the book. The ending of them on the bridge would have been perfect. It's a 5 biter for the book from me (and actually for the film but we're not a film review site!)
It's a little hard to believe that the Harry Potter series is twenty this year... twenty!! It can't possibly be that long... and yet it feels weird to try and remember a time when the bespectacled boy wizard wasn't enchanting millions of children and grown-ups alike! Kelly and I have been rereading and reviewing the books over the past few weeks for you but I wanted to address something else about the Harry Potter series... Fan fiction. I'd never really come across fan fiction before Harry Potter- it wasn't really something that had crossed my radar. I think that's partly due to the fact that the release of the first couple of books coincided with the burgeoning popularity of the internet and so I didn't really have the opportunity to before. The main reason however, was my friend Clare. I met Clare at university and one of the things we bonded over was our love of Harry Potter books. She introduced me to the world of fan fiction and away I went! Fan fiction is a little hard to get your head around at first… after all, if you love the books why would you want to read something that the author hadn’t even written? But people did… there were numerous websites, some dedicated solely to Harry Potter fan fiction, some covering fan fiction of all sorts of books, tv shows, films, and weirdly some real life stuff too! Digging a little deeper into it, fan fiction becomes much more explainable, particularly in the case of Harry Potter. JK Rowling had done a marvellous job of creating the fictional world of Harry Potter. The wealth of little details she has is testament to how much she dedicates to building a plausible world within which to frame her stories. Even the characters with the smallest roles to play, even the ‘walk on’ parts are well rounded and fit into the overarching story line. She drops in little details about people and places that seem completely innocuous and yet turn out to be pivotal in future plots. Her world building is on a truly epic scale. And so, when it comes to writing the stories, there is a lot that she just can’t address. She can drop hints of back stories but never tell them, lay a foundation for a character’s motivation but never completely explore it and this is where fan fiction comes in. So many of the fans want to know more. More about their favourite side characters, more about what happens when Harry and co aren’t around, more about the grownups at Hogwarts and how they got there. More more more! Some fans decide to write this ‘more’ for themselves, some decide just to read (I fall squarely in the latter category) but Harry Potter fanfiction usually ends up having something for everyone. The most popular types of fan fiction when I was reading tended to fall under certain categories. The Maruaders- telling tales of Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs, these types of stories focused on Harry’s father and his friends when they were at Hogwarts themselves. Creating the Map, becoming animagi, James’ romance with Lily were all popular themes. The Founders- harkening back to the formation of Hogwarts itself, these focused on the four Founders- Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff, Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin- and the whys and wherefores of creating a magical educational establishment. Often they featured romances between the founders. AU- Alternative universes, often featuring the resurrection of a particular character (usually Sirius), or focusing on a world where Voldemort triumphs and Harry and co become freedom fighters. Filling in the blanks/ alternative POV- These stories focused on minor characters and either told the story from their point of view, or told part of the tale unseen in the real books. Neville and Ginny’s resistance against the Carrows in the final year was a popular one, Colin’s POV of The Chamber of Secrets was pretty hilarious too. Post Victory- a hugely popular type was to write about what happened next. What happened when Harry had defeated the Dark Lord, grown up and faced other trials and tribulations contributed millions upon millions to the fan fiction databases and covered all sorts of possibilities. I’m certainly not saying that all Harry Potter Fan fiction was good, in fact huge swathes of it were absolute drivel, but every so often you would come across and sharply written take of Rowling’s world and it felt a little bit like knowing more…
We are fast approaching the 26th June, which is officially the 20th (!!) anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone. And our fond review of the series is coming towards the end as well. We have made it to the penultimate book, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and once again we have turned to fellow fans to give their feedback. Why not join in the conversation and let us know what you thought! Warning: spoilers below! This book certainly seemed to polarise the people we spoke to. “I didn't love Half Blood Prince. It felt like something I had to get to the end of just because I needed to know what happened,” said Clare. “I thought It was all too angsty,” said Rachel. “I know that was the point of it, but it reminded me too much of stroppy teenager stuff that I’d experienced or seen. I suspect I wouldn’t have minded if I had been an actual teenager.” Heather disagreed, seeing the angst instead as further demonstration of Harry’s growing maturity. “He is battling with his contending feelings of isolation and fondness for his friends,” she said. “This book is pivotal to the series and supplies an intense and dramatic read.” “It’s definitely more of a grown up book than the rest of the series, but that makes sense seen as though Harry and co are in their 6th year at Hogwarts,” said Lauren. “I though it was a rollercoaster of a read; will Draco survive, let alone complete his mission? I couldn't read it fast enough to find out! I finished the book having been through so many emotions I was exhausted but in a good way.” “This is my favourite book of the series for a number of reasons,” said Claire. “For me it was a coming of age book, bringing together the whole reason for the tale. Harry finally realises what his destiny is and what he must do. He finds out exactly how Voldemort has bemuse so powerful and what a huge task it will be to find and destroy the horcuxes, finally defeating him. It also has the heartbreaking moments when Dumbledore dies, killed by Harry’s perceived enemy Snape, who turns out to be the eponymous half blood prince. I remember reading that passage twice as I couldn't quite believe that Dumbledore was dead. I found this to be the most gripping book of the series, but unfortunately the biggest let down of the film franchise!” Fan’s average: 4 Bites
The problem with reviewing Harry Potter, is that most people have already read the series. Most people already have their favourite moments and characters, as well as a favourite book. So instead of writing about what I love about the next two books in the series, I've turned it over to some fans to share their thoughts. Today it's Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix and it's fair to say, there were fairly mixed views on this one. “Phoenix was pretty shouty,” said Rachel. “It was a depressing read. Quite a negative book,” Beckie said. “I enjoyed it, and how it progressed the story, but there wasn’t much to lighten it. There wasn't as much humour as the rest of the series,” “I agree that Harry seemed quite petulant and shouty the first time I read it,” said Giles. “But then you read it again and you realise how traumatised he is from the events of the last book. He is suffering from PTSD, and to make things worse, no one outside the order believes that Voldemort has returned.” Heather thinks this traumatic encounter changes all the characters we know and love. “We definitely see an increasing maturity and grounded dimension to the characters. As a result, Harry, Ron and Hermione encounter internal struggles and endure a new dynamic.” The idea of an increased maturity within both Harry and the series itself is a popular one. “I thought it really showed how the series had grown up. Much more than the end of Goblet of Fire did,” said Rachel. Carolyn agreed with this, and felt the book showed us a new side to Harry. “To be able to examine the meaning behind Harry’s change in personality, the book has to be read very carefully. However, when you examine the truth, you discover how beautifully Rowling has described Harry’s thoughts and feeling and how they have affected, not only him, but those close to him,” she said. “It also shows how he deals with his past in order to protect the ones he loves from the dangers he is about to face. I would say the Order of the Phoenix is my favourite book in the series.” But it’s not just the main characters who make an Impact in this book. “This is where we first meet Nymphadora Tonks who is one of my favourite characters,” said Mai. “She’s not only rockstar cool, but she's a real romantic heroine in the Cathy/Heathcliff tradition.” “Sirius Black,” said Clare. “I can’t forgive because I can’t forget.” “For me it was all about Sirius,” Giles said. “Realising that Sirius was a sad and lonely wizard who missed his best friend, and thought he could get him back through his best friend’s son.” "Delores Umbridge," said Lauren. "I loved her yet hated her all at the same time. Surely only possible due to Rowling's brilliant writing." “I loved how much more of the wizarding world we got to see,” Clare said. “Each book made it richer and deeper. But every book post movies suffered greatly from a lack of sharp editing, possibly because it had become such a genuine sensation by then.” "The biggest book of the lot so far, yet I read it just as quickly as the others," said Lauren. "I finished this one smiling!" Fan’s average: 4 Bites
Every book has a flavour, a taste it leaves in the mouth and a feeling it leaves in the stomach. Do you prefer a sweet romance, a bitter tale of revenge or a meaty murder?
Here at the BookEaters we aim to help you decide how to nourish your mind with our honest reviews – some may chew a book up and spit it out whilst others will savour every delicious bite!
We’ll also whet your appetite with fun lists and teaser articles.
Whether you only nibble politely at the edge of reading or you devour huge chunks of books, you are welcome here. Leave your comments and become part of the BookEating family!
If you are an author (or represent one) and would like a book reviewed, please click here.