Saturday, October 24

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - JK Rowling

In what should have been his final year at Hogwart's, Harry is instead preparing for the fight of his life - the final showdown with Voldemort. From leaving the only house he's ever know, though it was never home, to the bitter end, Harry knows his life is in danger. He also has a task from Dumbledore, a secret only Hermione and Ron are privy to, but along the way he's tempted by another, competing mission. And why has his scar started to itch and burn again, giving him glimpses of Voldemort's activities?
The seventh and concluding chapter in the enormously successful Harry Potter series, The Deadly Hallows manages to wrap up every aspect, from a final parting from the loathesome Dursley clan to answering the question of why Harry alone survived Voldemort's attempted murder. Along the way several well-known characters die, predominantly in the final battle, and the truths about other characters are revealed.
There's no question that Rowling's concluded her series, and no space for another Potter outing, and I very strongly felt as though that was her driving inspiration throughout the novel. I read the first in the series before it became a phenomenon (through chance and an interest in YA and boarding school novels rather than any prescience on my part), and though I read each instalment again before starting the latest addition, it's been a while since I've read anything in the universe. So long, in fact, that though I was sure I read The Half-Blood Prince, I don't remember Dumbledore dying. Hmm.
Anyway, the point when I started this ramble was that I can't tell if it's that my involvement at the series' beginning was due to the writing, or if the plot and the premise compensated. In The Deadly Hallows there's no question - Rowling was well over her creation. Although I persisted to the end, I didn't really care that much about any of the characters, the central plot, the secondary plots or the ultimate battle.
There were irritating slabs of exposition, pages of info dumping articles and text books, chunks of telling-not-showing, and I didn't feel any emotional resonance with the characters - when Harry's beloved owl Hedwig is killed early on it felt decidedly uninteresting, and the deaths of people were no more significant. The recurrent theme that Harry didn't know Dumbledore as a person, as adolescents transitioning to adulthood recognise their parents as individuals with a past and present separate from their child, was particularly clumsy.
Harry is oftentimes unattractively self-oriented for a hero figure - he loses sight of the bigger picture, his arrogance almost causes catastrophe (when, despite multiple warnings not to, he refers to Vodemort by name instead of allusion), and he persists in thinking that those rallying to his side - even at great personal risk - are doing so for him, rather than seeing that he's the face of revolution against Voldemort. They're on Harry's side because the alternative is the totalitarian regime of Voldemort and the Death Eaters, not because they think he'd make a better leader. Every time Harry beats himself up over this I wanted to reach into the page and smack him, which is at least an emotional response to the writing.
I was at a conference last month that spent an evening session on the depiction of death in the Potterverse, and that perspective made some of the novel more interesting, though it also made me more aware of the inconsistencies.
I also felt disappointed that some plot lines didn't resolve - the house elves, in particular. And Rowling's reliance on coincidencejarred. Mostly, though, I didn't feel connected enough to Harry, whose journey is the heart of the series. I'm glad I got to experience the early part of this publishing triumph before the hype, and I'm really interested in seeing where it is twenty years from now. I still think the basic concept is an interesting twist on a familiar theme, a series of novels that incorporate adventure, duality, change and growth. I just feel a little flat and uninvolved with the end. - Alex

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