Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J K Rowling

So that's it then - the last book in the Harry Potter series has been published, devoured, demolished and discussed endlessly. If you're not all talked out already, please feel free to post here and share your likes and dislikes about the book, how you feel about the Epilogue (which seems to have divided fans) and what you feel worked or didn't work...

For my part, I enjoyed it and thought it was a reasonably satisfying conclusion to the series. I was glad that I was proved right about Harry not having it in him to kill Voldemort, and very glad that Neville, Ginny and Luna lived up to my expectations of playing significant roles (even if they didn't do so in the way I'd hoped).

I was intrigued by the two quotations that started the book, and I thought Rowling did a fairly good job of tying up the loose ends. Dumbledore's back-story was intriguing and interesting as was Snape's, although I think many of us had already guessed that he loved Lily.

Now it's over to you.


Mai said...

Oh I've been waiting for this discussion to start! I read through this book at a rapid clip. Mostly because my cat was taken seriously ill that Saturday and I ended up spending hours in the ER with him. The book made the time go somewhat faster.

It didn't take me long - seven hours in total - to finish off the bit of candy that was JK Rowling's final Harry Potter novel. I loved it despite some flaws. I really did. I enjoyed it - I was swept right into the story. And I felt rewarded for my diligence in paying attention to details. I'm in awe of Rowling's talent, and I need to remember to read this book considering it's audience. The book just works. At first I wasn't sure - seemed a bit of the same old thing - and yet - no, it wasn't really the same old thing at all.

Here are some random thoughts (mostly stolen whole cloth from my own journal) to get started:

I think the book was too long and would have been better with some editing. There was way too much wandering around in the woods for me. There were some great scenes there, don't get me wrong - but I wish the narrative had been a bit tighter.

Everyone grows up, but I miss the whole genre of the 'boarding school tale' that was present in the earlier books.

I'm probably in the minority by saying I think that the epilogue was unnecessary and could have been deleted. Some things did feel a bit forced. Some things were a LITTLE too neat. And why did nobody name any of their children after Sirius (though it may have been a middle name for James).

My alternate titles for this book were "Harry Potter and the Overused Polyjuice Potion" and "Harry Potter and the Albus ex Machina". I thought the Kings Cross concept was well done, and it tied everything up with a bow, but it rankled.

Harry as an unintentional horcrux bothered me too. I have a problem with this even if it makes perfect sense. First of all, Voldemort wanted 6 horcruxes so that his soul would be split into 7 (6 horcruxes and one piece in his own body). Instead he got a total of 8. It seemed to me that horcruxes (by definition) were intentionally created and that an incidental, accidental one - while technically a horcrux is in reality something else. But it is nit pick. It makes perfect sense that a piece of Riddle's soul was somewhere within Harry. And yet I still have issues with it.

The book is best read unspoiled with no looking ahead. I'm glad I stayed spoiler free.

Some things did feel a bit forced. Some things were a LITTLE too neat. And why did nobody name any of their children after Sirius (though it may have been a middle name for James).

THANK GOD for no Quidditch. I'm sorry but after the first book I didn't really like reading about Quidditch matches - it felt repetitive.

I expected one of the twins to die, but wasn't expecting Percy's finally seeing the light. Didn't expect Delores - but it was nice to see she hadn't changed. Nice excuse to see inside the ministry again. Expected more from the Dursley's but wasn't SURPRISED at what we got.

It is the end of an epic - a true hero cycle. Hooray for Joseph Campbell scholars everywhere.

STILL no idea why some Christians have trouble with this book. Maybe NOW, now that we have a sort of resurrection, they will finally shut up and at least focus on the message in this book about the power of love.

Hooray for Neville! And HOORAY that everyone on the 'team' had something to do with the destruction of the horcruxes. Harry couldn't ever do it on his own - he's always said that and it has been proven. You have to have friends.

And the real magic? EVERYWHERE I went people of ALL AGES were reading this book and talking about it.

I'm going to miss Harry. Time to start re-reading!

Michele said...

Harry as an unintentional horcrux bothered me too. I have a problem with this even if it makes perfect sense. First of all, Voldemort wanted 6 horcruxes so that his soul would be split into 7 (6 horcruxes and one piece in his own body). Instead he got a total of 8. It seemed to me that horcruxes (by definition) were intentionally created and that an incidental, accidental one - while technically a horcrux is in reality something else. But it is nit pick. It makes perfect sense that a piece of Riddle's soul was somewhere within Harry. And yet I still have issues with it.

It bugged the heck out of me too, since I've been swearing all along that Voldemort had no opportunity to turn Harry into a Horcrux. But were there actually eight Horcruxes ? Can anyone confirm that (eg. with a list?)

I was pleased that one of the Horcruxes was in the Room of Requirement - I *knew* when I read of Harry hiding his Snape-annotated Potions book in there that there would be one in there somewhere...

I don't think you're alone in disliking the Epilogue - it seems to have been discussed intensely and largely disliked...

Liz B said...

What I most admire about Harry Potter:

It's one story told in 7 volumes; because of that, I don't want to call it a series.

The way that JKR has bits that seem oh so offhand going back to the first book that are important later. That is awesome plotting.

She doesn't do what is expected, so in that, makes the books "real." Who dies, and who doesn't, and how, are all real because of the randomness of it.

The battles that are both violent and scary yet oddly bloodless, because of the nature of a lot of the curses.

Jennie said...

Voldemort wanted to have 6 horcruxes, so there would be 7 pieces of soul. There were 7 horcruxes for 8 pieces of soul.

1. The Diary (from Chamber of Secrets)
2. The Ring (from Half-Blood Prince)
3. The Locket
4. The Cup
5. The Diadem
6. Nagini
7. Harry
8. Voldie himself

Jennie said...

I think my favorite aspect to Book 7 was the unexpected humor. I found it to be the funniest book by far.

I liked how Dumbledore wasn't perfect.

I loved that Neville's Gran wasn't some little cranky old lady.

And I liked Mrs. Weasley stepping up at the end.

Michele said...

Liz B - I'm totally with you on the awesomeness of JKR's plotting that throwaways become of major importance later on...

Jennie, thanks for the list of Horcruxes - I didn't have time to look them all up earlier...

Unknown said...

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to say that I can't wait to participate in this discussion - I've been purposely avoiding any discussions (except among my family) so I wouldn't be burned out before this one.

But right now I'm rereading the book and making notes (look out!) so I'll be back in a few days to comment. We have all through August and September, right?

Michele said...

We most certainly do - there's no rush to discuss today, or even this week...

Anonymous said...

I was delighted that I was right about Snape. The whole thing wouldn't've worked for me if he hadn't been truly "Dumbledores."

I was most intrigued by the Malfoy family--especially Narcissa's lie to cover up Harry's being alive. The family devotion was, to me, like a bold underline to Rowling's theme of redemptive love/parental sacrifice. I hadn't seen that coming.

I admit to a moment's confusion when Snape was dying. When reading of the silvery blue substance oozing out, I immediately thought of unicorn blood and began arguing to myself--"no, that doesn't work. That can't be right!" Eventually I realized that it was Snapes thoughts, destined for the pensieve.

I thought the time on the run was boring at times. JK should take a page from Tolkien re: how to allow relatively uneventful time to pass without dragging.

I missed McGonagal and Hagrid. I wanted to see Rita Skeeter's comeuppance (Umbridge's, too!)

Michele said...

I thought the time on the run was boring at times. JK should take a page from Tolkien re: how to allow relatively uneventful time to pass without dragging.

I know plenty of Tolkien fans who'd disagree with you on that score !

RM1(SS) (ret) said...

I must be the only person in the world who wasn't bored by the middle of the book - I thought it started right off with a bang, and kept it up all the way through. I do agree, though, with those who dislike the epilogue. Somebody somewhere has pointed out that it does kind of limit what fanfic writers and others can do with the story. I wonder if they'll include it in the film....

For me, the biggest surprise was finding out who the silver doe was. I had actually considered him, but only for about half a second. The whole chapter about his background was the best part of the book, though. (By the time this book came out I was more interested in finding out about Snape than I was finding out who lived or died!)

I do hope that young James Potter's middle name is indeed Sirius. There ought to be a Remus somewhere in there, too.

Michele said...

I think a lot of people like the chapter on Snape's backstory the best !

Kelly said...

I'm with James in that I really, really liked the chapters on the run. I didn't find them boring at all, and I think they really went a long way into showing the dynamic between Ron, Harry, and Hermione.

I'd say, overall, I really enjoyed the book, but really hated the epilogue. Only, because I wanted the epilogue to tell me something I DIDN'T know. It was clear by book 5, that Harry would end up with Ginny, and Ron with Hermoine. Even though it is early in their lives, not many people have been through what they have and their coupling made sense to me.

I did, however, think the mother issue was overemphasized in the book. In other words, Mrs. Weasley sticking up for Ginny was good. Realizing that Snape, Harry, and Voldemort were all motherless was also good. SAYING IT AGAIN, many times. Not good, and not subtle.

Again, though, I did mostly love it and it's hard to imagine anyone not finding something to complain about at the end of this awesome cultural phenomenon.

Michele said...

If everyone HAD loved it, the world would have imploded, I think !

There was a lot of emphasis on mothers, wasn't there ?!

Liz B said...

Mothers; I don't think it was too much one way or the other. Yes, Harry lived because of the sacrificing mother; but, at the same time, the person Harry was most interested in learning about thru all the books was his father.

Malfoys: I had expected more of a turnaround from the Malfoys, especially Draco, and was so very pleased for that NOT to happen. I thought, oh, Draco will now see the evil of Death Eater ways...but it wasn't that simple, was it? And I found that very real; a person isn't going to just change, it's going to be slow, and in some parts it will be selfishly motivated (Narcissa motivated by the downfall of her family in V's favor and the fear for her son's life.)

Camille said...

Narcissa was another mother who saved her son.

The epilogue seemed glued on the first time I read it but it has grown on me. After all Harry had been through I was happy to know he had kids and friends and a happy life.

It was a nice way to demonstrate that Harry had resolved his feelings for Snape and moved on.

I was so afraid he was going to turn out to be Frodo and "save the Shire" but not be able to enjoy it.

Seeing Malfoy from a distance was interesting. I rather think the Malfoys will always be held at a distance by most of society.

I found myself thinking of Snape a great deal after I finished the book. He was such a tragic figure. He could have found some forgiveness and maybe even a little happiness by helping Lily's son but his guilt ran too deep and he was too damaged.

Liz B said...

As a general, in response to no one comment, I found that what helped me enjoy this last book was to remind myself it was always Harry Potter's story; from the names of the books, to the opening chapter.

So even tho I wanted more on some of the other characters, and do wish I had seen more Snape (tho I was pleased with his backstory), Luna, Ginny, etc., it's Harry's story so other characters, or larger issues like the reform of the Ministry of Magic, aren't included.

MotherReader said...

This is late to chime in, but I wanted to anyway. I enjoyed the book. I didn't love the book. I felt like JK was trying to meet some sort of death quota in the book. I mean, Lupin and Tonks? Was that even necessary? Maybe she felt that since she couldn't dare a death of one of the three main characters, that she had to make up for it by killing a lot of other people so it would be "serious" enough. Typical quantity vs. quality quandary. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I think Lupin dying was a bit necessary, because he was the last of the marauders and it made sense somehow that all of the marauders should die.

Michele said...

Actually you raise a good point about the rest of the Marauders already being dead by that point...

Unknown said...

Now that it's been so long that no one cares anymore, I'm finally ready to post some comments. I hope that someone's still around that's interested in talking about the book!

First of all, I wanted to say that I loved the book. It was very different than I expected, but I loved it even more than I thought I would. I had such a strong emotional reaction to it that for a few days after I finished reading it the first time, I was moody, irritable, and weepy. Is that strange?

I even liked the epilogue. Yes, it was sappy and probably unnecessary, but I felt like Harry & company have been such a big part of our lives for the last decade, that it only seemed fair to see a little bit of their future. It helped to ease the pain of saying goodbye. And the epilogue was totally worth it for the line, "...you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew." I cried when I read that.

I want to respond to some of the comments here, and then I have some other things that I want to talk about that I'll post in separate comments.

I also liked the middle section and didn't find it tedious. In rereading it, I actually think that it's a testament to Rowling's skill as a writer that we perceive it as tedious, because when you look at the total number of pages, there aren't really that many where they are just hanging around the tent. The time on the run is broken up by a number of events that hold your interest: Godric's Hollow, getting the sword, Xenophilius Lovegood, Malfoy Manor. These events actually take up most of the page count of the middle segment, but we perceive the time on the run as long and tedious because it is long and tedious to Harry, Ron, and Hermione. We are supposed to see it as tedious.

The section I had more of a problem with was the Shell Cottage chapter. I thought the pacing on it was off after the exciting events at the Malfoy Manor. Up to that point everything had been moving quickly, from the Malfoy Manor and the escape and Dobby's death, to Voldemort approaching Hogwarts and Harry needing to talk to Griphook and Ollivander immediately. Then everything comes to a complete stop as they sit around Shell Cottage for weeks planning the break-in at Gringotts.

Unknown said...

More thoughts on the comments so far:

I join Mai in saying hooray for Neville! For me, Neville was one of the best parts of this book. I knew that Neville was going to do something heroic, but it was so satisfying to see Neville grown into his own and showing himself as the true Gryffindor that he is.

I also loved Mrs. Weasley dueling Bellatrix. I know some people have criticized the way it was done as being just more of the female stereotype - the mother defending her child - but I thought it was awesome seeing her step up and show her true power. I was cheering her on!

Regarding mothers: yes, there was a lot about mothers, but it really is a facet of the theme of the power of love running through the entire series, but especially in the last couple of books. Time and time again, Voldemort discounted the importance of love, and not recognizing its power was his undoing. I loved that even Narcissa betrayed Voldemort when it came down to protecting her son - but then, that was foreshadowed in the Spinners End chapter of Half-Blood Prince. But I also want to point out that it wasn't just mothers: remember that Xenophilius Lovegood spread his arms in a way that reminded Harry of his mother, and not only Narcissa but Lucius neglected the battle of Hogwarts in favor of searching for their son.

Marauders: Before Deathly Hallows came out, I read one person's prediction that Wormtail would die first and then Lupin, because that way the Marauders will have died in reverse order from the way they were introduced - Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs - and indeed, that's what happened. I don't know if it's coincidence or intentional, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Also, regarding the death of Lupin and Tonks, in a way it was setting up a parallel: Teddy is an orphan just like Harry, and Harry even at one point in the book called himself a reckless godfather like Sirius.

I'm totally in agreement with being in awe of all the little details that seemed unimportant in the earlier books, but which turned out to be really important. When I have time I want to go back and read the first six again to be able to really appreciate what it all means!

Michele said...

Sheila, thank you very much for your detailed and thoughtful comments... I don't know about anyone else, but I have read them !

I had such a strong emotional reaction to it that for a few days after I finished reading it the first time, I was moody, irritable, and weepy. Is that strange?

No, I don't think so - I've also had reactions that strong to books that I've been heavily invested in - not to this one, admittedly, but in the past I've felt exactly the way you describe...

NiceOrc said...

"and not only Narcissa but Lucius neglected the battle of Hogwarts in favor of searching for their son."

I can't shake the image of Lucius and Narcissa running through the battle looking for Draco. In my head I see them as Mr and Mrs Darling in the recent film of "Peter Pan", the scene where they are running to the nursery to stop the children flying away. (Yes, I know it's Jason Isaacs too!) But that sort of desperation.

Unknown said...

Niceorc, I haven't seen the latest version of Peter Pan, but you're right that seems a good example of the same kind of desperation. It was refreshing to see that side of Lucius, who has been one of the vilest villians of the series, and to know that even he feels that kind of parental love. (I love Jason Isaacs's portrayal of Lucius in the movies, and would like to see him show that side of Lucius in the movie, but it's such a small bit that it probably won't make the film).

Gail Gauthier said...

I've been by to look at this discussion before, but now I'll actually post a comment:

Regarding mothers in this whole series: I think the concept of mother love in these books is one of the reasons adults like them so much. We want to believe that mother love protects the young, that Lily's love for Harry will protect him from beyond the grave, that Molly Weasley's love for her child will make her powerful enough to defeat someone as evil as Bellatrix. That mother love will even be more powerful than evil within one's self as it is with Draco's mother. I believe all the good women characters are mothers. Tonks becomes a mother. Even Professor MacDonagal (forgive me if I have the name wrong), though not, to our knowledge, a biological mother, as a teacher acts in loco parentis and is thus a mother figure. All the major young women characters become mothers after the end of the story.

The most evil female characters are not mothers--Bellatrix and Dolories Umbridge. Petunia is technically a mother, but we're probably supposed to see her as a bad one. And her significance to the story is as an aunt. I believe in one of the books she has agreed to shelter Harry because she is is aunt, and he is safe in her house because she is his aunt. (Though I may not have that one hundred percent correct.) She certainly is not a "good" character.

In reality, we all know case after case where mother love wasn't enough to save someone. But here in these books, we can buy into this mother love fantasy for a while. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, by any means. Just very sad because we know it's a fantasy and the reality we live in is much different.

Camille said...

I will be interested to see if any of the school librarians in my area hold a Harry book discussion group now that school has started again. I am thinking that there are probably lots of kids who wanted a chance to talk about the book over the summer.

I hope they do. This has been so interesting.

Camille said...

The "tent time" did seem to go slowly the first time through, but at the time I was trying NOT to race through the story so I thought it was just me carefully reading every word. Upon re-reading that part though, I can see the plot points she was inserting (like the portrait) and why she took the time she did.

I listened to the editorially reviled book #5 this summer, to review before #7 and was amazed at how much I enjoyed it, much more than the first time I read it.

When I read Book 5 initially, I was dismayed by the length and had many of the thoughts about the editing that have been frequently discussed. I found that listening to it this summer though (maybe because I knew what was going to happen) I was not put off by the length at all. In fact I enjoyed the detail and savored the length. I understood aspects and details of the story I had not noted before.

It made me think of the first time I read Lord of the Rings. I skipped all the songs and poetry (Michele thwacks me again) because they seemed to be slowing me down and because I wanted to get on with the story. My subsequent re-reads and listens have included them.

To me the editing flaws and length are lagniappe, like Tolkien's poems, that I savor now that the story is at an end.

I am going to be listening to Jim Dale's reading of book #7 as soon as I get a new mp3 player. (After resurrecting itself twice, I think my iPod has finally gone to the great circuit board in the sky, sob.)
I expect that will be a whole new experience.

Michele said...

Camille, I'm not going to thwack you... Tolkien's songs and poems aren't to everyone's taste...

Sorry to hear your iPod died...

I confess I found the wanderings around England a little dull the first time I read it - I was reminded of Frodo and Sam's wanderings through Mordor - but less entertained ! Maybe I won't notice it so much next time I read the book ?

Unknown said...

Gail, good point about the mothers. It is a very idealized look at mother love. I did think of one example where a mother's love wasn't enough to save the child: Ariana's mother couldn't save her, in spite of the fact that she sacrificed her life for Ariana. But this may be a case of the example that proves the point. I know that Rowling's mother died young, and Rowling was also a young mother herself when she wrote the first book. Both those factors probably had something to do with the idealized and important role that mothers' love plays in the series.

Camille, I agree about the tent time. The first time through I did find it a little tedious, but the second time I read it I really noticed all the details that set things up for later. As I was rereading it, I kept pointing things out to my husband and son: "Listen to this! We didn't realize what that meant the first time we read it!" There's really a lot that happens in that section.

It's interesting that I'm not a big poetry fan (sorry!) but I always loved the songs and poems in The Lord of the Rings. When I was a teen I could quote several of them by heart, but I've mostly forgotten them now.

I haven't heard Jim Dale's recording of Deathly Hallows yet, but I do love the way he does the books. I've always been curious to hear the British versions of the audio books, because I've heard that narrator is very good as well, but I can't imagine anyone doing it better than Jim Dale.

Unknown said...

I wanted to share a couple of interesting, although not very important, things that I noticed on my second reading. These are things that I jotted down in my notebook while rereading, and some of them are, like Camille said, things that you don't "get" the first time through.

- After Tottenham Court, while they are on the run, they keep almost saying Voldemort's name, but Ron stops them because it makes him uncomfortable. Ron probably unknowingly saved their lives, because they didn't know about the restriction on the name yet!

- When Harry, Ron, and Hermione discover the importance of the Sword of Gryffindor, and that Dumbledore made a copy, they're pleased that Dumbledore didn't trust Snape enough to tell him about the copy. But Snape does know about the copy since he's the one that ultimately gives them the real sword!

- When Harry first meets Bathilda, the locket against his skin was "pulsing through the cold gold," and he thinks, "Did it know, could it sense, that the thing that could destroy it was near?" But really, it's pulsing not because the sword is near, but because it's in the presence of another horcrux! (Nagini)

- When Harry is in Voldemort's mind and remembering his parents' murders from Voldemort's point of view, it says, "The snake rustled on the filthy, cluttered floor, and he had killed the boy, and yet he was the boy..." That pretty much says right out that Harry is a horcrux!

- If Marvolo Gaunt is really descended from the Peverells as he claims, then Voldemort and Harry are really distant cousins, since Harry is descended from Ignotus Peverell.

Michele said...

All of which just goes to show that a second reading of Harry Potter *always* pays off...

This is the first time since book 4 that I actually haven't immediately re-read the book on finishing it...

Unknown said...

LOL. Well, Michele, I think you should immediately forget about all this Doctor Who stuff and go reread Harry Potter... :-)

Camille said...

Interesting. Now that I think of it, this is the first time my youngest daughter did not immediately start a re-read. She ALWAYS starts over when she finishes a Harry for the first time. I might ask her about that.
I found I could not start reading another book for at least two weeks. The presence of Harry was justs to...present.

Michele said...

Sheila, if I COULD forget the Doctor, I would - but alas it's just not possible. He insists on striding about in my head, ranting and rabbiting on all the time... *sigh* It's exhausting some times, having such a talkative Muse, especially one who doesn't sleep because he resents me sleeping !

Unknown said...

LOL. That does sound exhausting, Michele.

One more thing I wanted to talk about is the connection between book 7 and book 1. As we've discussed, there were many details in all the books that set things up for the last book. But it seems to me that there is a special connection between Deathly Hallows and Sorcerer's (Philosopher's) Stone, such that there is a circle which book 7 loops back to book 1. Here are some things that I noticed, but there may be others:

- Harry arrives at the Dursley's with Hagrid on the flying motorcycle. He leaves the Dursley's for the last time on the flying motorcycle with Hagrid.

- The very first time we see Dumbledore, he is using the Deluminator (although it's called a "Put-Outer," at least in the American version.) After his death he leaves the Deluminator to Ron in his will.

- In book 1, Harry meets Griphook, goes with him deep down into Gringotts, and learns about the security measures including dragons. In book 7, Harry breaks into Gringotts with Griphook, goes deep into the vaults, and encounters some of the security measures. As he's breaking in, he recalls Hagrid saying, "ye'd be mad ter try and rob it."

- In book 1, he gets his wand from Ollivander. In book 7 his wand breaks.

- In book 1, Dedalus Diggle is one of the first wizards that Harry meets. Also, I've always thought that Dedalus Diggle was the one who hugged Vernon Dursley in book 1 on the day that Voldemort killed Harry's parents, but I can't find any evidence of that. He just seems very Diggle-like. In book 7, Dedalus Diggle is the one who takes the Dursley's away.

- The scene where he dives to catch the diadem as the fire rages reminded me of him diving to catch Neville's rememberall in book 1.

- In book 1, when they are caught in the Devil's Snare, Hermione laments that they have no wood to light a fire. Ron berates her: "Are you a witch, or not?" In book 7, she gets even with him when they are trying to get into the shrieking shack through the whomping willow and Ron wishes that they had Crookshanks. She says, using very similar wording, "Are you a wizard, or what?"

Interestingly, in the Devil's Snare she casts a blue fire, and somewhere in book 7 I think it made a point of saying that being able to light small fires is a particular specialty of hers.

Michele said...

It is exhausting, but satisfyingly so !

As for your comments re. the links between books 1 and 7 - I had noticed them too...

And yes, I do believe it was Dedelus Diggle who hugged Mr Dursley that day...

(Oh and the Deluminator is called a "Put-Outer" in PS too !)

Unknown said...

Oh, I'm glad to know it's called a Put-Outer in your version as well. I had wondered if they dumbed it down for us Americans. ;-)

Michele said...

No, they didn't - I suspect that JK hadn't thought up the name when she wrote book 1 - book 7 is the first time that name is used...