Having seen all the Harry Potter movies, I have always had in mind to read the books. However, they never seemed to get any closer to the top of my reading pile. Indeed, they never really made it into my reading pile, but rather remained on the shelves, gathering dust, wondering if I would ever get to them.
Well, I finally did, at the wife’s insistence. More of a suggestion, really. She said, “Why don’t we read the Harry Potter books out loud?” We don’t do a lot together, the wife and me, except eat meals and watch television. And I’m fairly sick of television these days. This would give us a chance to do something together. So even though it would cut into my writing time, I said okay.
I believe it was after the first of the year that we began with The Sorcerer’s Stone. That’s a fairly short book, I think around 300 pages. Lynda has read them all before, but at least ten years ago, and she really didn’t remember the details of the books. We’ve seen the movies multiple times over the last year, as we watched them in rounds. But finally, I was reading Harry Potter.
At first we read around five pages, then passed the book to the other and they read five pages. Back and forth. Eventually we read longer sections, around a chapter each. I’m sure we were done with The Sorcerer’s Stone in less than a week. One of the main things I noticed was the different beginning in the book than in the movie. The basics were there in both: one-year-old Harry is taken to the Dursley’s to grow up away from the wizarding world. In the movie it’s a fairly short scene with only Dumbledore, McGonagal, and Hagred, told from Dumbledore’s point of view. It serves as a nice prologue to the story. In the book it is much more elaborate, and is told from either Vernon Dursley’s point of view or by an omniscient narrator. I don’t know that either is better.
The it was on to The Chamber of Secrets. A little bit longer book, it begins to flesh out some of Harry’s back story. At least it tells how he comes to be a prisoner in the Privet Drive house. His rescue by the Weasley brothers is much less dramatic in the book than it is in the movie. I think, on the whole, I’m going to remember this one less than the others.
Next was The Prisoner of Azkaban. Longer still, it was good to see Harry, Ron, and Hermione start to grow up. In this book we learn something more about their schoolwork. The book does a better job of explaining things such as the Marauder’s Map, and the secret passageway to the Shrieking Shack. The friendship of Moody, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs is explained much better in the book, as it to be expected. On the other hand, the dramatic scene in the movie where Harry goes into the corridors at night in search of Peter Pettigrew, who he saw on the map, is much better in the movie.
The Goblet of Fire is the one, so far, where the book and the movie diverge the greatest. The interaction between the students of the three schools is significantly different between the two. The movie excels in showing the Yule Ball, with the women in all their finery. The book does a better job of explaining what becomes of Rita Skeeter, what Fleur is like, how the tasks take place, and many more things.
Which brings us to The Order of the Phoenix, which we finished on Saturday. This is the longest of the books (so I understand); thus the movie is much condensed. It’s hard to know whether the movie is better or the book is better. The book explains a lot that the movie doesn’t. The book tells more about the Order of the Phoenix, whereas the movie seems to focus more on Dumbledore’s Army. My only negative comment is that the book seems over-long. It probably needed to be to flesh out the remaining back story on the encounter of baby Harry and Voldemort, but it seemed to take forever to get through it. By the end, had I been reading silently instead of aloud with Lynda, I would have found myself skipping or skimming sections.
The Half-Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows remain. I need to take a break from this reading every evening. It’s taking an hour or two every night away from my writing. It’s not bad time spent, but I need to make progress on my novel if I’m ever going to get it published. So I’m not sure when we’ll finish the last two.
In my next post, however, I’m going to make some comments on the story line of the Harry Potter books, and what has made them a success.