Friday, January 10, 2014

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling hardly needs another review written, but I'll go ahead and make notes of my thoughts on this reread. Warning: I'm including spoilers for the entire series, so if you have not yet read it but intend to do so, you may want to skip these ruminations.

I've read this book many times, and it stands up well to rereading. This time through, I was amazed to discover that there are two things that I like better in the movie than in the book. Shocking, no? The "She needs to sort out her priorities" line is sheer brilliance, and you won't find it in the book. Also, in the scene where Harry, Ron, and Hermione take on the troll in the bathroom, book-Hermione spends the scene nearly fainting in fright, while movie-Hermione gets to call out instructions to Ron, giving her a slightly more active role in that scene.

In previous rereads, I have been struck by the illogical nature of the protections set on the Stone at Hogwarts. Why "protect" the stone with a series of enchantments that can be overcome by first-year Hogwarts students? Isn't there any more powerful magic that could be employed? On this reread, I started to wonder if perhaps the stone and Harry were bait for Voldemort; if Dumbledore set up the whole thing to draw Voldemort back out of hiding, now that Harry was ready to be a player again. (Harry says something like this at the end of the book, when discussing events with Ron and Hermione.) Kind of ruthless of Dumbledore, but as Snape accuses him in a later scene, he does have a ruthless side when it comes to Harry, especially at this point, where Dumbledore has not really gotten to know Harry yet. I think this same ruthlessness comes into play when addressing another big question about the book: why leave Harry with his borderline abusive relatives and never check up on him? If Dumbledore was periodically visiting or sending scouts to a particular Muggle residence, it would have been easier for Death Eaters to discover where the boy was hidden, and attack him before he was old enough to have had any magical training. After all, the protection afforded by the blood bond would keep him safe from Voldemort, but not from, say, Lucius Malfoy or Barty Crouch, Jr.

I still count Dumbledore as one of my favorite characters (right up there with Snape), but from this angle he does look a little cold and calculating.

This book is not my favorite of the series, but it's in my top three, at least partly because of the way it draws readers in to the magical world. Who wouldn't want to shop in Diagon Alley and attend classes at Hogwarts after reading the descriptions of Harry's adventures? I remember getting this book, back before the media hoopla, and reading it through two times in a row and then handing it off to the rest of the family and insisting that they read it. I took my time to savor it on this read-through, and plan to do the same with the rest of the books, spacing them out one per month.

(Reviewed from my personally purchased copy.)

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