Jan 25, 2013

Harry Potter Readalong, Book 1: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

First and foremost, thank you to Alice Reading Rambo for hosting this readalong. Second, thanks to Emily at As the Crowe Flies and Reads for turning me onto it. Having not reread any of the Harry Potter books since they first came out, I can not begin to tell you how excited I am to go back and start reading them MORE THAN A DECADE LATER. I am still young enough where this seems like a long stretch of time. Forgive me.

Unfortunately, I'm a week behind, which means I'm going to be posting about the whole of book 1 here, while everyone else posts about the start of book 2, and then by the next post I hope to have caught up. Because I'm so behind, I'm pretty much just going to post my stream of consciousness reading thoughts on book 1 and the get really into the swing of things for book 2

Also, I have only recently been introduced to the world of gifs. Apparently they're moving pictures that have funny captions, and are in part appropriate here because they're like the moving photographs in the wizard world in Harry Potter, yes? Or something like that. I'll get used to them, I promise, and probably some day figure out how to make my very own, or at least where to find some to post here. I apologize there are none on this post.

Lastly, before we begin, I'm going to make you all hate me by saying I am not a fan of Mary GrandPré's artwork. Go ahead, shoot me. It's just not my style. But I'm very happy for her and her career and for the bajillion fans who love her work who are now burning me in effigy.

So, to begin:

Obviously the book is really enjoyable; let's just get that out of the way. This time around, having seen almost all the films (I think I missed the last one somehow - how DID that happen?) and read all the books, I had a pretty good idea of where things were going, which allowed me to pick up on all those other little subplot moments (not to pat myself on the back or anything).

Right at the beginning, possibly plot inconsistency: Hagrid tells Dumbledore that the motorcycle he rides in on belongs to Sirius Black: "Young Sirius Black lent it to me." (pg 14) But later in the series, Sirius Black is in Azkaban, and wouldn't he have been there already or at least suspect at that point for having supposedly betrayed Harry's Mom & Dad? I hate to point that out, as he's one of my favorite characters, but still, that might be inconsistent with the plot later.

During most of the first quarter of this book, I just kept thinking of Oliver Twist: "...and Harry was left to curl up under the thinnest, most ragged blanket" (pg. 45). "Please, sir, may I have another?" Is that even Oliver Twist? Or is that Tiny Tim? Not going to look it up, you get the point. Later, when he's at Hogwarts, I kept thinking of Charlotte's Web, with all the descriptions of food. Reminds me of Templeton's romp through the fairgrounds that one night.

Ah, the meeting with Professor Quirrell in the Leaky Cauldron. How on EARTH did Prof. Q. get this position in the first place? Who DOES do the hiring for Hogwarts? You would think it would be Dumbledore or Professor McGonagall or anyone else with half a brain who wouldn't hire a trembly Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. And later, his curriculum - someone should really be looking over that, shouldn't they, to see that the kids are actually being taught something useful? I mean, isn't that kind of an important subject? I kind of feel like DAtDA is like Driver's Ed - not everyone may need to use it, but we should all take it so if we're ever forced behind the wheel of a car, we know at least the basics of what to do. Okay, not a great analogy, but can you think of a better one?

"I remember every wand I've ever sold, Mr. Potter. Every single wand. It so happens that the Phoenix whose tail feather is in your wand, have another feather - just one other. It is very curious indeed that you should be destined for this wand when its brother - why its brother gave you that scar" (pg. 85).
Mostly I just loved that whole scene, but I always thought it would be cool if it turned out that the phoenix who gave the tail feather turned out to be Fawlkes (Dumbledore's phoenix. It IS Fawlkes, right?). Also, resisting the urge to comment on wand size being a euphemism for the size of something else...

Moving on: "Considered by many the greatest wizard of modern times, Dumbeldore is particularly famous for his defeat of the Dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon's blood, and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicholas Flamel. Professor Dumbledore enjoys chamber music and tenpin bowling." (pg. 102-103)
Though I had a lingering memory that Flamel had a wife, this part still kind of made me wonder if there wasn't something romantic at one point between Dumbledore and Flamel. Even when Flamel's wife is later confirmed, I still kind of hope there was.

Bad idea to read this book while hungry. Also a bad idea to write down notes on your iPhone without saving. Grrr. Learned a new type of food - something about sausages, starts with a c, sounds Spanish, but I think when I looked it up it said it was actually French.

Okay, what's up with no one talking to them after they lost the points for Gryffendor? Fred & George must have lost that amount of points combined with all the hijinks those two get up to. Seems really unfair (and kind of un-kid-like) for everyone to shun the three of them for that ENTIRE length of time.

Ridiculous detention in chapter 15! First-years in the forbidden forest? Isn't that actually helping them break the rules as part of their punishment for breaking the rules? Also, who authorized this detention? Looking for whatever creature is hunting and killing unicorns?!? Oh no, that won't be dangerous at all. And also, how is that so much work, like Filch keeps talking about? Other than staying up really late, sounds more like an adventure to me. As a kid, I would have loved it if my detention actually meant, "Go explore the creepy forbidden forest at night with 3 of your friends (and one eneme), one of whom is the groundskeeper and so knows every inch of the forest." Really tough, that one.

Lastly, where's the hullabaloo about Voldemort being back?!?!? If the centaurs know it's him, and Harry knows, how died Hagrid not? And if Harry told Ron and Hermoine, isn't at least one of them smart enough to know that they should tell an adult? Voldemort hadn't been seen in how many years and suddenly he's seen in the Forbidden Forest on Hogwarts' very grounds? That entire chapter 15 and detention incident is totally unresolved.

"'It's tonight,' said Harry, once he was sure Professor McGonagall was out of earshot. 'Snape's going through the trapdoor tonight. He's found out everything he needs, and now he's got Dumbledore out of the way.'" (pg. 268)
Why are they so convinced its going to happen that night? Just because they're kids and learned the secret today and the world revolves around them? That stranger in the pub nonsense was weeks ago! Wouldn't the cloaked stranger have already made use of the information by now?

"'Not if I can help it,' said Hermoine, grimly. 'Flitwick told me in secret that I got a hundred and welve percent on his exam. They're not throwing me out after that.'" (pg. 271)
Hermoine gets all sassy, love it! If only she stays this sassy throughout the rest.

Forgot there were so many tasks for them to get past on their way to confront Snape/Quirrell; the movie shortened that. Wish they'd kept the logic in, it really underscored how important Hermoine has become to the group. Instead, they kept in the self-deprecating line about friendship and bravery being more important that books and cleverness. 'Cause that was the right choice (heavy sarcasm should be noted here).

ARGH! General rant about the arbitrary points system! Every time a teacher adds points or detract points, I'm like WTF? I guess that's part of the point - oh those kooky wizards, giving out and taking away points all willy-nilly-style - but it drives me a little insane. Neville's additional points at the end are amazing of course, but then Harry only gets 60 points for almost dying? The whole thing smells fishy.

And last but not least, the two times I teared up: when Hagrid gives Harry the photo album of his family and when Neville gets the winning house points. SUCH a spectacular ending.

Oh, also, how attractive did Neville turn out? (Or the actor who played him.) Hubba hubba.


  1. Random thoughts on your post!

    Yay for joining the readalong

    Hagrid taking Sirius's bike. I think, at this point, Hagrid would have taken the bike right AFTER the Voldy attack, and right before Sirius went after Wormtail and it was his "attack" on Wormtail that got him captured and thus sent to Azkaban. So I think when Hagrid took the bike he was still free.

    Detention in the Forbidden Forest = most ridiculous. It is amazing that a bunch of kids don't die every year at Hogwarts.

    So one, yes, I think the kids always think everything revolves around them. But also, I think they thought Snape would be going through the trapdoor that night because it was the first night that Dumbledore was gone. Otherwise Dumbledore was always around the school.

    The points system is totally stupid, but I guess a good way for the teachers to keep control of the students. They're less likely to break rules if they're going to lose this completely meaningless house cup.

    Adult Neville win.

    Sorry, this was a really long comment.

  2. "But later in the series, Sirius Black is in Azkaban, and wouldn't he have been there already or at least suspect at that point for having supposedly betrayed Harry's Mom & Dad?"

    But...he betrayed them that DAY, so everything would've still been in an uproar. Like, Lily and James died, Hagrid got to the scene, found Sirius looking aghast, got his motorcycle, and met up with Dumbledore and McGonagall. I grant that Dumbledore should've been like "What what?" because he knew about Sirius, but no one else did, I think.

    As for Quirrell, I mean, the DADA position's cursed, right? So maybe they couldn't get anyone better.

  3. There is so much here SO much! I totally teared up at those same two points near the end. And Handsome! Neville took us all by surprise, I think.

    I've been going back & forth about the whole Sirius Black/motorcyle thing myself. I suppose that at the point Hagrid borrowed the motorbike, Sirius and Pettigrew hadn't had their stand-off yet in public with the dead muggles, etc, so that perhaps they weren't convinced of his guilt. But that standoff must have happened pretty soon after that.

    The thing that gets ME with that scene is that it takes nearly 24 hours for Hagrid to motor little Harry to Privet Drive. There's NO place within the island of England/Scotland/Wales that would take that long to get to with magic.

  4. Ooh, welcome to the party! And I agree, the artwork doesn't rock my socks, but I do like that it continues around the whole book, inside flaps and all. It's a big picture, you see.

    It is Oliver Twist who said that and I'm pretty sure that it IS Fawkes' feather in Harry's wand. So score on both points. I don't, however, think that Harry knew it was Voldy in the forest, and the centaurs don't really tell people what they know, so I think that bit actually makes sense. Though so much does not.

    And I agree that the point system is totally inconsistent and seems to rely more on how pissed off the teachers are than anything.

  5. Welcome! Glad you're reading along with us.

    Harry's parents had *just* been killed, so I think Sirius was probably doing that Thing that got him thrown in Azkaban the same night that Hagrid borrowed his motorcycle. Even a few nights after that, if it took him a few days to track down that Person.

    I love that Neville turned out the gorgeous-est of all of them. Well played, Universe.

  6. Welcome to the wonderfulness that is this readalong!

    And don't worry about making your own GIFs -- I steal all mine from tumblr.

    Re: Harry not telling anyone that he saw Voldemort in the forest -- this is an excellent point and unfortunately I fear that the answer is that if he had told someone, the ending wouldn't be as dramatic, because Dumbledore and McGonagall would sweep the forest and the story would be over. Hmm. That's kind of depressing, actually...

    But hot!Neville cheered me up, so thank you!

  7. Hello hello! This is my first read of the series, so I don't have much to add regarding Future Happenings. I have, however, been trying to think of a dirty joke about Neville's knack for herbology...no luck on that front quite yet.

  8. Welcome to the readalong! I agree, the artwork for these books is not the best.

    I think that Sirius was still free and possibly not a suspect yet when that all went down. I feel like I remember them saying in book 3 that Sirius killed a bunch of people in broad daylight, so it would have at least been the next day I think?

    And I thought there might be something romantic between Dumbledore and Flamel too! Glad I wasn't the only one.

  9. "Who DOES do the hiring for Hogwarts?"- I KNOW RIGHT?! And considering who becomes the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher in the SECOND book, this is a really troubling point!

    I think the reason it was going down that night was because Dumbledore had been mysteeeeriously called away, as opposed to it being because they'd JUST found out. Although obviously it's a kids book so there's a bit of that too, I guess!

    ALSO YES Dumbledore and Flamel! I actually got Flamel and Grindelwald (Is that his name? Maybe...) confused when he was first mentioned and thought he WAS Dumbledore's love, and I kind of still want that to be true!

  10. I agree with literally everyone. Mmmm, Neville.

  11. Yeah, it is totally not Dumbledore's fault he wasn't able to find a better DADA teacher. The position's been cursed for at least the last ten years, probably longer. They've already gone through the ten available good candidates in the wizarding world, and now there are no more. So it's all Quirrell.


Penny for your thoughts?