Monday, July 23, 2007

And now for a few of my thoughts on HP (and obviously there's spoilers).

It's disgusting and rainy today. I was on hold with a vendor, and the hold music was singing, "raindrops are falling on my head..." The irony, oh, the irony.

Anyway, Moonrat is finished with the book, which means I can finally say a few words about it!

First off, I loved it. I mean, it was everything I expected, and nothing surprised me all that much, but it was immensely satisfying for that reason. Of course there were some things I was disappointed by, but they're things that I kinda wanted not because it would make sense, but because I miss the quality in the previous books. Things like, I miss quidditch, I wish they didn't spend so much of the book just sitting out in the woods, I missed seeing the other characters as much (like Hagrid and the other kids and even the teachers at Hogwarts), and I felt this one was the least "fantastical magical" (but of course - it had to be dark). There were also a few questions here and there that I had leftover, but I guess there's only so much you can stuff into one book.

The thing that was great about this book is how it ties everything together - pulls all the little details you might have missed in the first 6 books and makes it all fit together, one great big puzzle in the making. I think that's what made it so satisfying. She's got it all there, all mapped out. It's a very complete, very real world in that everything makes sense and is three-dimensional in its conception. You get a real feeling that this world lives on its own, that things happen of their own accord, and everything, down to the smallest detail, is all part of this.

My favorite thing about this book, and now, in retrospect, knowing all the details, this entire series, is how human the characters are. How, despite the first-hand glance that the characters may just be your usual archtypes, by the end of the seventh book, we realize that everyone has flaws and another side. The moral, to me, if anything, is this very real characterization of people, and hope for redemption.

I love Dumbledore. I've said this before, and I'll say it again, that he is my favorite character. I missed him sorely in this book, seeing as he was dead. I, like the characters, was getting a little riled up by the accusations of how he wasn't all that great. Even though in my head, I kept thinking there was a perfectly good explanation for everything, it still bothered me. Just like it bothered everyone else in the book. It's a discomforting feeling that this great wizard was arrogant and self-absorbed back in the day. But at the end of you, you understand - people are foolish when they are young, make mistakes that they pay for and regret. He is not without remorse, and has spent the rest of his life making up for it. Perhaps that is why he trusts, and forgives. He of all people understands the mistakes people make when they are young (*ahem* Snape). And isn't that part of being wise? I didn't exactly love the King's Cross/in-limbo scene with Harry - I felt it wasn't executed as well as it could have been, but it got the point across, and in the end, I still think part of what makes Dumbledore the best of all of these wise wizarding types throughout all books I've read, is the fact that he's incredibly human.

The part of the book I was drawn to the most was Snape's story with Lily. I'd heard of this theory through the NYMag blog, so I wasn't too shocked when it actually happened. Nonetheless, the story really touched me. I mean, I never doubted that Dumbledore had a good reason for trusting Snape, and clearly, when he killed Dumbledore, it had to be on his orders. Nevertheless, aside from that, he's a really hateful, unpleasant man, and gives Harry a really hard time for someone he's trying to help Dumbledore save. So I really appreciated Rowling taking the time to give us his side of the story (although I do feel that the Pensieve, though a very creative creation, was sort of used as an easy way to get the real story out here). I'm a sucker for understanding the other side, and I think here, it is a really sad and touching story. Poor Snape has had a crappy childhood, and he's so socially awkward. He tries so hard to be good to Lily, the one kid who shows him an ounce of niceness, stands up for him, everything, but he just can't seem to get it right. He's incredibly protective of himself, proud, and defensive, but inside you can see he's this sad, cracked little boy. I mean, there's just something so tragic about him, so misunderstood, and yet he still tries to rise above all of it and help Dumbledore. I think of all the character studies that Rowling has drawn, his is the most empathy provoking, and clearly flags this idea of redemption, and the sort of good things that love can drive a person to do. I was very sad for him, very sad for how his life ended, and yet he died for a really good cause. In a weird twist, you can almost see this story being sort of his story too - his transition from childhood, his arrival at Hogwarts, where, like Harry, he's sort of a weird outcast at first, to his death in which he really does die having redeemed himself.

The one other point I wanted to make was, the Deathly Hallows seemed hugely irrelevant to everything. Almost a red herring for the sake of it. I think Rowling had a point going with the immortality bit and Dumbledore going after it, and beating death and deserving it, but I don't think that came together as well as it could have, and fell a little flat, to a point where I didn't think it deserved the cover title. But that could just be me.

I have a lot of other things to say about the book and series as a whole too, of course, but I've written already too much here. If anyone wants my opinion on any other points, I'd be happy to share.

Overall I felt the book was exactly what it should have been, tying everything up exactly how we all wanted it to. There was no question about Harry defeating Voldemort in the end, and I think she drives in her morality story of the power of love, friendship, loyalty, courage, sacrifice and redemption. I think, all complaints aside about her sometimes lack of great writing skills, what's important about this epic are the issues she raises. Her tale of good vs. evil is not a clear-cut black and white - there are shades of gray in her story, just like how real life truly is. We learn something about humanity through her books, in how we love and grieve and grow-up. I think what's great is that there's something in these books for every age. As a teenager, I think some of the underlying elements were lost on me, but now, older, I see the bigger picture in the books (which is why it does appeal to adults as well as children I think), the more complex issues she deals with, and the morality that can be universally understood by all ages.

By the way, not sure how I felt about the Epilogue. I mean, I was dying to know what happens to them in the future like anyone else, so I drank that part up all greedily, but in terms of craft, it just seemed weird and tacked on and unnecessary. Obviously it was put there just to make us all feel better. Hee hee. But okay, I'm cool with that.

Phew. So much rambling here. I'm sorry, I meant to be a lot less wordy and more organized in my thoughts here, but it's rainy, it's Monday... give me a break. :)

5 drops:

moonrat said...

oh good good. you haven't reacted to any of the things i was planning on reacting to, so now we can get a good old-fashioned back-and-forth like we're so good at.

angelle said...

yes! we love back and forths. i actually had a lot more things to say about the book, but i already wrote a shitload and i felt like i was being excessive. but post something up and i'll react to it!

moonrat said...

ooo oo the horcruxes, per your comment, and listed in the order Voldemort made them (to the best of my recollection)--

1) The diary--Riddle's first murder, created during his 6th year at Hogwarts. Destroyed by Harry in Book 2. Hidden in Chamber of Secrets.

2) The ring (and Hallow)--created after Hogwarts when Riddle went to confront his family; created upon the murder of his father and their family (like the diary, I think, although I remembered another murder before this...?). Hidden in the Gaunt shack. Destroyed by Snape/Dumbledore in Book 6.

3) Slytherin's locket, which was hidden in the basin in the lake in the cave by the sea, and

4) Hufflepuff's cup: obtained during Riddle's brief career in retail. The cup was hidden in the Lestrange vault at Gringots.

5) Ravenclaw's diadem, created during Riddle's tour of Albania and hidden in the Room of Requirement during Riddle's final interview with Dumbledore. Destroyed by Crabbe's fire in Book 7.

6) Nagini. She was a horcrux.

7) Harry Potter. Voldemort intended to make a DIFFERENT horcrux after killing Harry, but made Harry one by accident.

More information than you ever wanted. Sigh. But see, writing this is a lot more fun than working.

orientalcracker said...

i'd have to voice disagreement with some of what angelle said about HP making serious inquiries into moral issues...for me, the biggest disappointment regarding DH was the devolution of what started out as a very layered, emotionally and morally complex story into hackneyed, cartoonishly neat resolution. i suppose it does bring up certain intriguing questions about personal morality, but at the end of the day the answers are always supplied for us. it's true that in some ways i expected JK to end the book like this--after all, it's supposed to be a kid's book--but it just felt a little too pat. What to you felt like all the pieces falling into place felt horribly contrived to me. however, i do agree with you about That Which Should Not Exist (aka the epilogue). laaaaaame.

angelle said...

you know, it was definitely contrived, and no one can say that anything "unexpected" happened. but like you said, it's a kid's book, and i think children would be less likely to view it as contrived. we are judging it from a standpoint of having read adult books where chances are taken and pay off. i think for children it's okay to work within a certain formula, to satisfy them and give them the ending they want. i definitely there were some cringe-worthy moments in the writing (harry and voldy circling each other for instnace) but there were also some genuinely emotional moments (harry asking the ghost of his mother to stay close as he walks towards his death). all in all, i was satisfied with the ending and i was okay with how trite it was, bc i still felt that it raised complex issues for children in a way that they could grasp it, while also asking adult readers to look at the same issues from the angle they're standing from. children live very black and white lives for the most part, and they understand the difference between the good fairy and the wicked witch of the west, and for all intents and purposes snape had the colorings of one of the bad seeds. i like that jk showed kids that appearances can be deceiving, that everyone has a story to tell, bc children don't always think in that way. they may not grasp it in the higher philosophical/intellectual sense that we as adults might debate about it, but there's no doubt in my mind that there's a certain amount of impact in showing the other side. i think i can forgive her too-easy resolutions, subpar style, and sometimes scenes that felt unforgivably drawn out, because in the end i think she's drawn a world with impeccable detail and made it come into being - and while she was at it, she's made some serious points about certain issues for children to ponder over and seep in slowly.

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