Still recovering from my huge book reading holiday by not actually finishing any books since, I thought I would look back to three I did finish while enjoying Orkney.
The two Harry Potter books were, of course, excellent. As much as I enjoy the films, they cannot be as complete as the books and convey the same sense of build up to the big events. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the infuriating Malfoys get so cross making that I always have a little cheer when Dobby succeeds at the end. Some of his earlier stunts are so very dangerous and frustrating that it is amazing that Harry survives, let alone stays at Hogwarts. Harry and Ron’s escape from the Forest is always surprising, as are the revelations of the final scenes. When I read the despair that Ginny’s disappearance causes, I wonder at which point Rowling decided what would happen in that final scene in the final book.
As for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I suppose the whole thing hinges on what you think of the time travel aspect. It seems odd that Hermione is issued with such a powerful instrument just to allow her to attend lessons. Surely the wizarding world would have made more use of such a device if it was freely available, albeit with extreme care. It is a difficult concept to explain in the book, but Rowling just about gets away with it. I think that it’s more of a problem in the film, when the suspension of disbelief in a world just slightly different from our own is maintained, but only just. Much has been written about why the Potter books work. I think it is because the world, the characters, are so understandable, even if they have amazing powers. For example, in Chamber of Secrets Mrs.Weasley is furious at some of her sons for using the car to rescue Harry, just like any other parent would be. The fact that the car is able to fly just adds to the situation. So the whole time shift thing, I think, just pushes it too far.
The most touching element of this book is Harry’s discovery of his godfather. While the whole saga demands that Harry has no parents living, it is good to see him have a slightly risky godparent. What has always confused me is what happened to his father’s, James, family. Being entrusted to relatives outside the magical world is one thing, but I have often wondered why there was no family at all left. After all, even the much older Dumbledore still has at least one family member surviving. The most terrifying characters are undoubtedly the Dementors, not just because of their general terrifying presence, but because of their ultimate power. Apart from the time shift element, which is difficult to describe, this is an excellent book.
One of the other books is I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson. Females over a certain age may remember the title as being part of the lyrics of one of David Cassidy’s songs. and the early part of this novel is set in the world of teenage fans and the frustrations of being a teenage girl with all the friendship crisis and allegiances that entailed. The novel evolves into a study of being a parent who isn’t coping, because of challenges beyond their control. Marriages go wrong and only a dramatic trip can give a new perspective. There are some funny moments as well as intensely dramatic scenes. While this book could easily be seen as simply another easy read, the writing is far better than that, with painful observation emerging. I believe I read and quite appreciated her other book, I Don’t Know How She Does It, soon to be a very American film. I’m not sure if it will work in some ways, as what I enjoyed about it were the small observations, such as the harassed heroine distressing mince pies to make them look home made. That moment probably won’t make the film. This book is good, with sharp observations and a satisfying story. Not great literature, but definitely worth reading, even if you preferred the Osmonds (who?).