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Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

So here is my promised post about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Holt asked me not to post spoilers because she has an RSS reader and would have to skip through it (I don't RSS any of the blogs I read, so I'm uncertain how this works), so I told her I had to post spoilers, but would make sure everything was well-labeled before that point came.

I got the book at midnight. Well, not quite midnight. I was in line at Borders (luckily, I had gotten my bracelet early that morning on my way to work, so I was in the first grouping of people: you lined up based on your bracelet color, so although I got there much later than most people--around 11:30--I was still near the front of the line) when 12:01 came around. And the line didn't move. 12:02: line isn't moving. 12:03: no progress. 12:04: still standing still. 12:05: Borders employees walk through the store with cases of the book. At 12:05 a.m.! Couldn't they have set up the cases of books near the registers at some point before 12:01?! Did I mention there was no AC in the Borders? And that Gobo had been texting me from about 11:40 p.m., asking if I had the book yet?

Anyway, by 12:20 a.m., I had the book. We went home and I started reading immediately. I stayed up until 5:45 a.m., at which point I took a nap for a few hours, then woke up, told Gobo "I have to power through," and finished by about 3:15 p.m.

In the time I read the book, I lost two pounds. I'm not joking--I weighed myself before reading and after reading, and I was two pounds lighter. I'm guessing I cried those two pounds away.

And now for THE SPOILERS (I don't think that a traditional review will do this book justice, so I'm just kind of laying out my favorite moments, in the order in which they happened in the book):

I started crying at page 56. When a book is over 750 pages long, this isn't a great sign for my tear ducts. Page 56 is when Hedwig died, which was just so devestating to me. Of course, as I sit there and sob my cat looks at me, turns around, and walks away. The loyalty of pets.

I was hoping for a reprieve from tears, but that was in vain. I started crying again a few minutes later (at page 74) when Fred sees George with his ear cut off. Something about the idea of seeing your identical twin physically injured was very sad to me. I also had a brief cry for poor Mr. Ollivander, prisoner in the Malfoy's basement, but that one didn't last long.

But my next cry was a big one (page 97): Hermione modifying her parents' memories so that they didn't even remember they had a daughter, so they would (hopefully) be safe in Australia as she helped Harry to fight Voldemort. So much of the Potter books are about loyalty and sacrifice, and losing your relationship with your parents so that they could live (and you could fight for humankind) seemed like a pretty big sacrifice to make.

What made this book so great, though, was that there were not only the (very, very) sad moments, but also light, funny ones, which is something Rowling has managed to do with all of the books in this series. There was Hermione telling Ron that she was washing his underwear (page 115) and then Ron giving Harry a book about girls and how to talk with them. Throughout the book, Ron would give Hermione really obvious compliments, and she would fall for it every time. But my favorite part was when Harry gave Mrs. Weasley a genuine compliment and Ron, thinking it was something Harry had picked up in the book, tells him "good one!" (page 119). And any reference to Ron as a "ginger" made me laugh, but that was really more because of how much I love South Park.

One of my absolute favorite humorous parts of the book, however, was when Luna and her father were at Bill and Fleur's wedding, and Luna's father was encouraging Luna to be her totally kooky self and to do whatever she felt moved to. It was so great to see Luna with someone who really understood and appreciated her.

It wasn't long until I was crying again--there were definitely tears at page 312 when Hermione cried herself to sleep after Ron abandonned them, and Harry looked at the Marauder's Map just to see Ginny's name. But those were pretty quickly followed by laughs a few pages later when Harry joked that he had never opened "A History of Magic" and Hermione fell back into her old know-it-all routine. It was nice to see life a little bit normal just for a few minutes. Ron's return was great, as was his vote for whether they should visit Luna's father, Xenophilius Lovegood (he sided with Hermione to get back in her good graces, making the vote 2-1). I also loved Ron excitedly telling Harry and Hermione who was speaking on the radio, even when it was incredibly obvious.

But then followed what may have been my biggest cry of the book (it had a close competitor--it's tough to call which one I cried more for): Dobby's death. I didn't even like Dobby all that much. I always thought of him as the Jar Jar Binks of the Harry Potter books. But when the ever-loyal Dobby, who would do anything for Harry, died, I lost it. And I lost it even more when everyone donated clothes for Dobby to wear, and Dean Thomas provided a woolen hat for him. It reminded me of how Dobby had collected all of the clothes Hermione knitted for the house elves when she was working on S.P.E.W., and Dobby proudly wore them all. I finally thought that I was done cying over Dobby, but then Harry wrote on his gravestone "Here lies Dobby, a free elf," and I was sobbing again. Pages 475-81 were not easy ones for me.

One thing that I had missed about this book was all of our favorite characters. We got to see many of them only in bits and pieces, and so I was thrilled when I turned to page 570 and Neville appeared! And I absolutely loved that Neville finally came into his own--he was a resistance leader at Hogwarts!

Another think I love about the Potter books is Rowling's ability to describe moments we have all been through. It was great when Fleur asked Lupin "'ow eez little Teddy," to try to break an awkward moment.

And I love her ability to stay true to her characters. Sure, we knew that Ron and Hermione were in love. But we didn't see a kiss between the two of them until page 625. And why did Hermione finally grab Ron and kiss him? Because he was worried about the house elves in the Hogwarts basement and thought someone should warn them of the fight that was about to take place.

That moment of happiness didn't last long, however, as the fight within the castle began and the casualties started mounting. I was so happy to see Percy finally come back into the Weasley fold. Which made it even sadder when Fred laughed at a joke Percy made while they were fighting, and was killed, "the ghost of his last laugh etched upon his face." I expected at least one Weasley would be killed in this book, but having the perennially happy Fred killed while laughing was so very sad. And so along with Dobby, I cried more than I had for any other death in the book.

One would think that when, only 24 pages later (on page 661), we were told Lupin and Tonks had both died, I wouldn't have had any tears left. Alas, I managed to cry for them as well, although perhaps not as much as I would have if all these other deaths hadn't happened. Lupin was always one of my absolute favorite Potter characters, and it would have been nice to see one of the Marauders make it (well, as between Sirius, James and Lupin, that is--I didn't care to see Pettigrew survive, and his death was a great scene). And Lupin and Tonks' death was even more tragic because their son, like Harry, would be orphaned as a baby. But Rowling just told us that their bodies were among the dead, instead of recounting their death scene, which probably made it a little easier for me to take.

However, by the time we were told that little Colin Creevey had died, I didn't shed one tear. Maybe I didn't have any left? Because between Lupin and Tonks' death and Colin's, there were two more huge sobbing moments. First was Snape's memories of Lily. I really loved this part of the book.

I always suspected that Snape and Lily had some sort of relationship before James and Sirius hung him upside down in front of their classmates, but I loved seeing them as children and best friends (and I loved getting some background on Petunia and learning that she had desperately wanted to attend Hogwarts). I cried when Snape sat outside of the Gryffindor common room, saying he would sleep there until Lily came out, to beg her forgiveness (which she didn't give), and I cried when Snape realized that he might end up being the cause of his beloved's death. Snape was such a tragic character throughout all of these books, even if he was also horrible to Harry. He could never get past his hatred of Harry's father to realize that Harry was really so much like his mother. Or perhaps acknowledging that would have been too painful? In the end, Snape was always alone: obviously alone in his home life as a child, alone at Hogwarts (going to the dark side to fit in with his Slytherin friends), and alone as an adult. The only true friend he ever had was Lily, and it was his fault that he lost her.

And then there was Dumbledore's revelation that Harry was an inadvertent Horcrux and therefore must also die. At this point in the book (page 691) I didn't want to continue reading, because I didn't want Harry to die. The next fifteen pages were torture, as Harry walked to his death, catching one last glimpse of Ginny, telling Neville to kill Nagini (in case Ron and Hermione didn't make it), thinking of his times visiting Hagrid. I was pretty much in constant tears at that point. And then he talked with all those he had cared about who were dead. At about that point I began to hope that Dumbledore knew something he hadn't told Snape when he informed him Harry must die. And on page 708, my hope came true, as Dumbledore told Harry that he probably wasn't dead. It was also interesting that the fact that he was alive was hidden from Voldemort by Narcissa Malfoy, although she certainly didn't save Harry because of her love for him--she did it because she wanted to know whether Draco was safe. But regardless, she did it.

Of course, the fact that Harry was alive didn't stop me from crying when Hagrid thought Harry was dead on page 727. But after that point, things got pretty great, particularly with Neville killing Nagini and then, finally, with Harry killing Voldemort.

I know that Rowling had stated she wrote the last chapter of the final Potter book before she wrote any of the series, but I hadn't expected it to be an epilogue. In the end, I'm not sure it was needed: was anyone surprised that Ron and Hermione and Harry and Ginny ended up together? I doubt it. And we didn't get much more out of the epilogue than that. We learned they had children, that Harry named one of his sons Albus Severus (and his other two children after his parents), that Teddy Lupin seemed to have grown up just fine (and that he was getting it on with Bill and Fleur's daughter), and that Neville was the Herbology professor at Hogwarts.

But it was nice, after reading through so much death and sadness, to see a happy ending for our main characters and the wizarding world.

So in case you haven't figured it out, I loved this book. My true favorites are probably still The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Goblet of Fire, but I'm not sure. I definitely have to go back and re-read it. I also listen to the Potter books on audio, and playing in my car on Sunday was the tail end of The Sorceror's Stone. And at one point, Ron asks Hermione "Have you gone mad? Are you a witch or not?" when she comes up with a difficult, non-magic solution to a problem. And I realized that Hermione asked Harry the same thing in Deathly Hallows: "Have you gone mad? Are you a wizard or not?" when he comes up with a non-magic solution. It's easy to miss those references, especially when you are worried that Hermione might die on the next page, so I definitely have to go back to make sure I didn't miss any nuances.

I'm sad that there will be no more Potter books. Rowling really managed to stay true to her characters through seven books, and she expertly mixed humor, sadness and mystery. I hope she writes more books, hopefully outside of the fantasy genre.

I suspect I will remember a ton I meant to include in this post and forgot, and so this might not be my last word on The Deathly Hallows.



Blogger Laura Holt said...

Ok, I finally finished the book too, and of course I totally loved it. Definitely the biggest crying moments for me were Dobby's death, and when Harry realized he had to die and did it so reluctantly but gracefully. I really really cried over Dobby, and Harry’s reaction to Dobby’s death. It was so beautifully written.

I honestly think Snape might have been one of my favorite characters in all of the books. I didn't like him, but Rowling made me feel so so so sorry for him over and over again throughout the series. I think it was the greasy hair that first clued me in that this was a tragic character. The clearly neglected child who has never been shown by example how to treat other people until it's too late. I was so sure that Rowling couldn't have made Snape really into an evil character that I practically cheered when we got his final thoughts in the pensieve (as I was crying of course) and saw that he'd been working with Dumbledore the whole time. And I LOVED that Harry finally appreciated Snape too, and named one of his sons after him, calling him the bravest man he ever knew. That was the one tear I got in the epilogue, and I'm really glad we got that chapter if only for that moment. There was too much going on up until that point for Harry to really express his appreciation for Snape’s sacrifices

Another moment that I loved, and one that you didn’t mention, was the conversion of Kreacher. I thought it was really touching that the bitter, mean little house elf was so incredibly touched by the gift of the locket that had belonged to the one master who had ever respected him and treated him with kindness that he began to love the person who gave it to him. I was actually really worried about Kreacher for hundreds of pages after Harry was forced to abandon him at Grimmauld Place and was so relieved to finally see him again at the battle of Hogwarts. This is where Rowling really shines, in making you care and remember about such an enormous cast of characters.

I of course have many more thoughts, but this comment is getting as long as the post. Basically, I loved it, and I’m so sorry to see the story end.

7/30/2007 9:30 AM  
Blogger Sally-Anne said...

I avoided this blog until I finished reading DH, just in case a spoiler leapt out at me. I just now read the post I knew would be here.

My only cry was Hedwig. The only other time I came close was when Fred died, mostly because of what you said about George's ear -- it'd be so hard for a twin to see his twin hurt, and especially dead.

I never thought the thing with Hermione's parents was really sad, except for Hermione at the time. But she said she could undo it if she lived, so I was hopeful.

I did think the epilogue was pretty predictable. I'd have liked to have learned more about the fates of other characters. But it still offered some closure, if cheap and sappy.

I think I might have to reread the entire series to catch some of the little cross-references.

8/23/2007 11:57 AM  
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