Friday, May 16, 2008

hp and the chamber of secrets discussion thread

Post comments in the comments!

Also, for the interested, the HP books have fallen off of the NY Times bestseller list for the first time in ten years. Sad! (Thanks to Arianne for the link.)


wordnerdy said...

OK, here are some initial thoughts/impressions/etc.

I've always thought this is a fairly strong followup to the first HP book--I mean, it's not /as/ strong, but the story is good and mvoes along at a fair pace. Rowling is also excellent at throwing in the little details of the wizarding world, which I love.

--There are some weaknesses here--Lockhart is little more than comic relief (though I love how the other teachers treat him), the whole flying a car to school scene is gratuitous--is it jsut there so Harry and Ron feel like they're actually in danger of being expelled? And as much as I love Dobby in the later books, he is the sort of character that grates on me in his early scenes here.

--This book sort of introduces the family structure of the Weasleys--of course we've met most of them before, but now we can see them in their own environment. We also meet Arthur for the first time. I think the Weasleys are the closest Harry has to a real and functional family (even when Ron doesn't seem to do much for the story, his status as a Weasley makes him worthwhile) and it's nice to see their interactions here.

--As much as we talk about Harry's hero complex (especially in the later books)--Fawkes is the hero here!! Seriously, reread that battle scene--Harry really doesn't do much besides be there.

--Again, as with the first book, there are hints that Rowling did indeed know where the story would ultimately go. Harry says (during the inevitable final conversation with Dumbledore where all is explained), "Voldemort put a bit of himself in me?" Yes, yes he did.

ahartsell said...

I was thinking the same thing about Fawkes when I was reading!

I love the interactions with the Weasleys. The de-gnoming scene is one of my favorites in any of the books. The Weasleys definitely function as a family for Harry. They give him a sense of stability because he gets to just act like a kid when he's with them, not a future hero or a freak.

I also think the flying car scene is a bit gratuitous. I always thought the point though was to show that they are still children. I mean the logical decision would have been to send a message with Hedwig explaining why they were late and then to wait for the Weasleys to come back and take them. It's obvious to us that they would have still been able to go to school if they were a little late getting there. But to them it seemed like the end of the world.

ahartsell said...

When you first read it, did you suspect Ginny? I really didn't suspect her at all the first time I read it. Yet as I was re-reading it, I kept thinking oh my god, there's so many clues that she's involved.

I was thinking as I was reading how the portrayal of Percy really matches his later actions. It shows not just how he cares about following the rules but how much he cares about appearances: "Don't you care what this looks like?" (137).

I mentioned last time how I was a little annoyed with Dumbledore's explanations of events in the first book. But I really liked his explanations in this one. Like you mentioned how Harry realizes that a little bit of Voldemort is in him. I also really really like how Dumbledore explains how it's your choices that matter, not your abilities. I think that's another theme that pops up in later books. Sure she sort of hits you over the head with it in this book, but I think it's a great thing for kids to hear.

wordnerdy said...

You're very right about Ginny--I never suspected her, but the clues are all there--how upset she gets after every attack, how she wants to tell them something but then there's the Percy misdirection . . . Rowling is great at building suspense and not giving too much away.

You raise a good point that they're still children--they're only 12 in this book, which is something I forget. Of course they don't have much common sense! Harry's process towards adulthood is something that's key to the series.

Percy is kind of a tool in all the books--it's so weir considering how cool all the other Weasleys are! But he's clearly the one affected the most by their relative poverty and eccentricity--he's very determined and ambitious, but channels it pretty badly.