Thursday, July 21, 2011

Reflections: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Adam C. Zern offers a few thoughts on J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:

"I lost a bet.  But I say that in the nicest way possible.  My wife and I, before a game of Scrabble, bet that whoever won would get to choose a book the other would have to read.  I lost, which I usually do when playing Sarah in Scrabble.  She chose that I read her favorite Harry Potter book: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  I, however, had only read the first Potter book as an assignment in a Mythology class.  I'm terribly anal about reading books in order and decided that I would need to read the second Potter book before reading the third.

I had seen the film version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and was pretty unimpressed.  In fact, after watching it one time I don't think I've ever gone back to watch it again.  Therefore, I wasn't overly excited to read the book.  Yet, after having read it, I think I can understand a little bit more the fervor that fans of the books feel when they watch the movie versions that are clunky, confusing, and incomplete.  There is just a whole lot more story, exposition, and character in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets the book, and that makes it much more enjoyable to read than to watch.

About 130 pages into the book I was wondering if anything was actually going to happen.  Rowling was clearly having a good time with her wizarding world - its spells, its enchantments, its oddities, and putting her characters in the middle of it all - but that's not a story.  There is some foreshadowing and some plot points that become important later in the book, but it seemed like an overly slow burn to get her book going.  The story does eventually get going, and I was willingly taken along.

The characters are fun and distinct (especially the main three: Harry, Ron, and Hermione).  The recurring joke of Ron's broken wand is entertaining and culminates into an appropriate pay-off.  The dialogue usually works and seems appropriate to each individual character.  However, the final confrontation with Tom Riddle is hopelessly bad.  It almost felt like Rowling wrote all of Riddle's dialogue when she was really tired and couldn't think of anything creative for him to say.  The story is, of course, wrapped up nicely into a bow at the end and everything works out fine, as well as everyone who was in a dire situation being conveniently revived to health by the story's end.  It's a very quick read.

Especially since it was one of the earlier Potter books, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is written for children/young adults, and it reads like it as well.  There are certainly better books and stories out there, and I wonder why some books/movies grab the public's attention and become enshrined in popular culture while others do not.  But, for what it's worth, I liked Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  In order to fulfill my debt, I will be reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban eventually.  I suppose the true test of whether or not I will continue reading the Potter books will be once I finish the third one and have no external motivation to continue with Potter and his adventures.  We shall see."

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