I recently decided to read all seven Harry Potters back to back. Somehow, despite having read each book multiple times, I’ve never done that. It was an interesting and very different experience from reading them years apart or a random book here or there.
I initially picked up book one for a different reason. I wanted to look at the way JK Rowling introduced new characters, dealt with making it feel like a full school with characters we know and care about (even the ones who aren’t main characters like the main trio), how she dealt with the passage of a full year, and how she showed the different classes. These are some of the things that JKR does particularly well in Harry Potter: she builds a world (as do all fantasy books) that feels incredibly real and thought out without resorting to racial stereotypes (by that I mean, the way most fantasy book tend to group all people from a specific background or place into one personality type). Reading the Sorcerer’s Stone after all this time was the strangest experience of them all because every time I “met” a character for the first time, I knew all this other information about them that had to get stuffed into the small scenes we saw of them. For example, we meet Neville on the train when he loses Trevor and he seems so sad and pathetic, but at the same time, you know that he will go on to lead Dumbledore’s Army in book seven.
Anyway, reading them straight through gave me a new appreciation for the book. For the first time, I cried for the death’s of Fred, Dobby, Lupin, and Tonks (I never cried for Dumbledore because I always expected him to die–how would Harry ever face Voldemort if Dumbledore was around?). I might have cried for Sirius as well, though I can’t remember for sure. I think being so immersed in those characters for such a long period of time (all seven books all at once) made me feel connected to them more than just the occasional read through. The most incredible thing about the books is the way JKR really captures Harry’s emotions when he loses the people he loves. And I dare you to read book five twice, when you’re in a good mood and when you’re in a bad. When I read it in a good mood, all I could think was “Harry, you are being such a baby, it isn’t Ron and Hermione’s fault!” and when I was in a bad mood, I thought “Harry, you are so right!”
This go around also made me appreciate the importance of the Deathly Hallows and what Dumbledore meant about being “the master of death.” For some reason, every other time I read it they felt like an unnecessary addition that overly complicated things. This time it seemed to click that though Harry surviving might be what some people considered “mastering death” (and which didn’t really ultimately require the Hallows), it was his willingness to die and the understanding that there are worse things than death, that showed he had mastered it.
There were still things that I didn’t feel were given a satisfactory explanation (like what exactly the veil that Sirius fell through was or how much of a person’s personality does a headmaster’s portrait retain), but it did feel like the vast majority of questions anyone could have were answered. Not to say fans don’t come up with more questions–just look at those interviews JKR has done and you will see some of the crazy things fans ask about.
Ultimately, all I have to say is JKR, please write something else already! Whether Harry Potter or something else, there has never been a book series that I’ve so happily re-read as many times as I have this one.