Well! After the four months it actually took back in the late summer and fall of last year and the seven months it took to post the whole thing, I’ve finally publicly finished the Harry Potter series via audiobook. Naturally, there were some elements of the books that I couldn’t discuss thoroughly in reviewing (kind of) the audiobooks. (I only listen to books I’ve read because I’m not an aural learner at all; I need the text, so my audiobook reviews can’t be as thorough as my regular book reviews.) So I thought I’d take today to take a look at some of the things I discovered on this particular journey through Harry Potter.
1. Severus Snape can go straight to hell.
As a kid, I never loved Severus Snape, but I didn’t hate him. To me, as to much of the world, he was Alan Rickman, and therefore eligible for being dreamy. I didn’t find him so, but then, I didn’t turn away from fanfiction featuring him. He was Snape—a good guy forced to masquerade as a bad guy, whose only sin was love.
As an adult, I hate Severus Snape. I can’t quite call to mind any other character I hate as much, even considering all of A Song of Ice and Fire, including Joffrey. (At least Joffrey is never presented as a good person.) I understand why Snape doesn’t like Harry, but what I don’t understand is how much. This is a man who, long before Lord Voldemort returns to power, hates Harry so much that he wants to get the kid expelled or worse.
But I think it’s his hatred for Hermione that really seals the deal; the way he deals with an obnoxiously smart student is just wrong. There’s a way to deal with her appropriately. (And his teaching style seems to speak volumes about how much he doesn’t even want to be a teacher.) It also speaks to me of issues with women, which naturally informs how I read his fixation on Lily, who, as we see in the series, seems to be a completely functioning human being who moved past her jerk of a childhood friend, while he pines away for her for years. (Seriously?)
Anyway, he can go straight to hell.
2. Harry is selfish—and that’s a good thing.
I find Harry’s selfishness fascinating. Perhaps selfishness isn’t the right word; he’s self-centered, as neglected children can be. He’s simply never had to care for anyone besides himself until the age of eleven, which is late to start developing empathy. And then he’s quite a typical teenage boy; empathy isn’t their greatest trait.
But it works, and it makes him unique to me. Because of this self-centered nature, he relates to the world differently—he sees it in terms of filial relationships instead of friendships or romantic attachments. (This is why Ron, Harry, and Hermione all end up related by marriage at the end of the series.) It sets him apart from other teenage boys, and gives him a good reason not to understand the things that he doesn’t. It might sound like it’s hard to make a character like that sympathetic, but Rowling does this very well.
3. Bellatrix is not Helena Bonham Carter.
I was so disappointed to hear that Helena Bonham Carter had been cast as Bellatrix in the film. My Bellatrix had been inspired by the fanartist Makani’s Bellatrix, which was an insane but elegant older woman. Carter’s Bellatrix, with her bizarre hair, wild antics, and bugging eyes turned me off of the character so vehemently that I didn’t care for Bellatrix for years.
But Jim Dale’s Bellatrix, with her French accent, breathed new life into the character. Gone was the specter of Carter’s Bellatrix, and here was a desperately glamorous Frenchwoman who covered her insanity well—most of the time. It was even a Bellatrix who—gasp!—might have loved her husband (despite her love for the Dark Lord). In short, she was no longer the only main female Death Eater because she lusted after the Dark Lord, but because she believed in the movement herself. This was a Bellatrix who would be doing this in Voldemort’s absence, and I think that was the turning point for me.
4. Ginny Weasley is awesome.
I think it just really hit me this time that Ginny is not only Ron’s little sister, but she’s Fred and George’s. As in, she’s just as clever and mischievous as they are, but in her own way, and she’s been going toe to toe with the twins since a young age. Book!Ron is sharper than Movie!Ron (by a long shot), and Ginny is sharper still. She’s also got a quicker temper and a keener sense of justice; she snarks at Harry when he won’t ask anyone else if they’ve been possessed by Voldemort about her own horrific experience with it, and she will not let Ron slutshame her. There’s also a sense, although Rowling isn’t the best at this, that she has her own life outside of Harry. Her friendship with Luna, in particular, occurs mostly off screen, but you feel that it does happen. In short, Ginny is pretty awesome.
I do wish she ended up with someone who loved her passionately instead of marrying her because he liked her and loved her family, but we can’t have everything.
5. Horror is a beautiful thing.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince surprised me this go round with their veins of chilling horror leavened and brought into higher contrast by two very different kinds of school novels—the former a more traditional and rosy-cheeked variety, and the later a teenage comedy. I think I think of horror as gore so much that I often forget that the most terrifying things don’t have to be violent or novel to be horrifying. It can be just as clarifying as it is chilling, and while I don’t think I’m quite ready to brave the shores of horror proper just yet, I’m thinking more fondly of it than ever.
It’s been a regular week for me—work, class, rehearsal, rinse, repeat. I did go to the Georgia Renaissance Festival yesterday with my friend Andrea, which was an absolute delight. Check out your local Renaissance Festivals, they’re tons of fun and get you outdoors! We also capped it with a small Game of Thrones marathon, since I got the DVDs for my twenty-first birthday, which was on Monday! I did finish Out of the Silent Planet this week, and I’ve started on Whipping Girl.
The folks at the Kitchn are giving away a cooking surprise package (including a cookbook!) until the 24th. The Baen Free Library is full of free downloads, including The Shadow of the Lion and On Basilisk Station. Night Shade Books is offering Butcher Bird and Grey as free downloads at the moment. Vertigo Comics is offering free downloads of the first issue of several series, including Fables, The Unwritten, and Y: The Last Man. (And you will go download The Unwritten.) Small Beer Press offers several of their books as free downloads, including Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners. If I’ve missed your giveaway or freebie, drop me a line!
Have you revisited the Harry Potter series, especially if you read them as a child? What’d you think?