“I don’t believe it! I don’t believe it! Oh, Ron, how wonderful! A prefect! That’s everyone in the family!’
‘What are Fred and I, next-door neighbors?’ said George indignantly…” (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)*
I must confess that I’m not really a re-reader. I always feel a slight, self-imposed pressure to keep discovering new books and an equally slight sense of guilt when I revisit old favorites. But I have to admit, after having re-read HP for the dozenth time, I am starting to appreciate the benefits of the exercise. If I had a complex and highly sophisticated charting tool at my disposal, and had decided to map my ratings of the HP books over the past decade, the chart would tell the tale of my life.
Firstly, a sharp dip in this hypothetical chart would reveal the embarrassing period in the beginning of my college career when I turned my back on these stories in favor of more ‘worthy’ literature. At this point I was apparently trying to act as little like myself as I could. This period was preceded by a deep dislike of the fifth book, probably because all the teenage grumblings reminded me too much of my own young adulthood. And as a kid, who still partially believed in magic, the first book absolutely entranced me. I would often read over the descriptions of Diagon Alley and the first Hogwarts classes – mostly for any scraps of information to include in a game I was trying to make.
This time through, squarely in my mid-twenties, I found the fourth book a little slow and overly dramatic, the third full of a lovely symmetry I had hardly noticed before, and am currently delighting in the portrayal of Umbridge. This sharp reversal in attitude towards the fifth book is largely a product of increased experience; I’d never had the pleasure of a truly dreadful superior before. Now I find I have a great affinity with Harry at this particular point in the story. Although the books themselves didn’t change, I have. Every time I look at them I appreciate different scenes and ho-hum over ones I used to enjoy. Do you have any guilty re-reading pleasures?
Reminds me of… The Harry Potter books usually stand on their own for me, but this time The Prisoner of Azkaban reminded me very much of The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin for its complex intertwining plot.
*No matter how old I get, this line always makes me laugh.