Friday, 15 July 2011

Harry Potter | Why it’s OK to relax and enjoy the Deathly Hallows | JK Rowling

We’ve all had the experience: that rolling of the eyes as someone tells you they couldn’t get past chapter three of the first book.
For some, not liking Harry Potter – indeed, the fact they have never read even one of the multi-million selling books – isn’t so much a cultural omission as a badge of honour.
“It’s just for kids” they say. Then: “And the writing is so bad...” And the clincher: “Philip Pullman is so much better.”
I find it weird that with so many people around the world utterly hooked on these books, enough to go and queue and a bookshop to buy one at midnight, that avid readers aren't at least be curious to know what they are all about.
But Not Liking Harry Potter is as much a part of the JK phenomenon as Hermione’s know it all attitude and Daniel Radcliffe’s bare chest.
Well, here are a few reasons why I think it is ok to be a grown up and to love Harry Potter. I’m looking forward to the final film, too. I hope the 3D is worth it...
1.       She can write. Oh yes she can. Nobody does a big story as well as JK Rowling. Quibble about her prose if you want to – and question the quality of editing she got, especially on book #5, which to my mind rambles a bit – but her books are structured brilliantly, the stories told with great pace and her twists and reveals hard to second guess. But don’t just take my word for it, Stephen King rates her as one of the greatest storytellers ever – and he should know.
2.       It really isn’t just for kids. They might be about a bunch of kids carrying wands, but the Harry Potter books are also about life’s big themes. Harry’s fight with Voldemort is as timeless, as elemental as you can imagine: a genuinely good hearted person who is prepared to put others first versus an entirely ruthless and self seeking individual who cares little for truth or beauty but only in power. Simplistic? Hardly. Rowling is careful to make sure that Voldemort is not simply a monster: so we learn of his past, that he was an orphan, not unlike Harry, who chose his path. And what of his followers? Evil or self serving? Rowling appreciates the political world, has a sense for the human scale of evil and with characters like Umbridge shows us how small mindedness can be terrible.
3.       Nostalgia can be a good thing. In proportion, certainly. There is something deeply nostalgic about the Potter world which I am sure explains a large part of their popularity with adults. The Magical World is a place where everyone knows everyone else, where they are all pushing in roughly the same direction, where tradition and family values count. These are good values which mainstream British society has lost to a large degree. And of course it is elitist – the magicians are different, set apart, inherently special. And this appeals to us too – because don’t we all feel that somehow we are just like that too? Better than average, different to the crowd?
4.       Characters you care about. Is there a greater creation in all of literature than the Weasley family? No, I’m serious. Varied, anarchic and full of detail, Rowling’s Weasleys sum up a lot of what makes her books so addictive. You want these people to survive and when they suffer a terrible loss you feel it completely in your gut. The Weasleys don’t come across as well in the films as they do in the books – no fault of the actors, it is just that the films don’t have the time to recreate them properly.
5.       Myths and legends. She is often accused of plucking the best from old stories and presenting them as her own. Anyone who knows anything about writing should be able to tell you that this is poppycock. Rowling is incredibly well read, it’s true, and she has a magpie genius for summoning ideas into her narrative. But this is her great strength not a weakness. In part, it is the familiarity of the books that help them work so well. They speak of rings, of power, of magicians – and well, these aren’t alien ideas, these have been around for centuries – so we accept them more. But Rowling’s goblins and elves are not Tolkein’s, they are very much her own.


  1. Great post! I absolutely adore J.K Rowling and I get so defensive whenever anyone criticises the books!

    Also, completely agree about the Weasleys. Best family I've ever come across and it hurt me whenever Rowling hurt one of them.

  2. Thanks Kayleigh.... hope you enjoy the film too...