Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
(the first book of the series for other non-fans out there) twice. And failed twice. Half the world seemed captivated by it, but I couldn't get past the first couple of chapters. I always felt I was being very unpatriotic by not reading the books by this new British writer, so I still bought them. They sat on my shelf neglected until they moved into a box and there they stayed. And then last week, when I'd been thoroughly unimpressed with everything I'd tried reading, I picked up the Harry Potter book. And I loved
There could be a couple of reasons why I enjoyed this book the third time round. The first being that I now teach children and am more involved with children's fiction
. I was a massive Roald Dahl fan when I was a child and there were certain books I read over and over. I'm surprised, but pleased, to learn that a lot of children still read Roald Dahl books (at least in Hong Kong he is still very popular). The Sunday Times writes about J.K. Rowling, "[C]omparisons with Dahl are, this time, justified." Dahl had the most amazing imagination for plots as well as characters and the ability to invent his own new words. Although Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
starts off as a modern day Cinderella (with Harry regularly being locked in a cupboard under the stairs and his cousin, Dudley, being doted on completely) a different 'happily ever after' is found in the form of wizardry at Hogwarts. Despite the characters being fairly standard in the first book, apart from the form of 'You-Know-Who', we do grow to care for them. Rowling's ability to invent new words is fantastic from the word go: Muggle, Quidditch, Gryffindor, Slytherin, and so it goes on.
Another reason I may have enjoyed the book this time could be that I have started writing myself. What I find particularly good about Rowling's story-telling is the attention to detail. From cauldron cakes to disappearing faces on collection cards to the complicated rules of Quidditch. She also writes spells, poems and songs. These details are so good that if you're not paying attention, you just read over them
. And that's exactly how it should be. Meanwhile they are building an amazingly full picture of this new and imaginary world.
Despite not being a hardcore fan I know there is a flurry of excitement for Potter fans the world over, but I'm still not entirely sure what it is. Judging by the adverts everywhere
it's a new film. Is it the last film? Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson have been struggling to rid themselves of their Harry Potter personalities, but the world is still desperate for more. Imagine my surprise when I emerged into the blazing sunshine in Times Square, Hong Kong, to find a massive Hogwarts Express! It looked weirdly out of place, but wonderful all at the same time. I wonder if the train is travelling around the world - like a famous painting travels from museum to museum – or has one been simultaneously erected in every major city?
I'm told each book is better than the last. Will I be on a mission to finish all of them and watch all of the films? Hell, yes!
Is Harry Potter the most famous fictional character of all time? I should think so, but to be honest I'd never really 'got' the Harry Potter craze. I had tried reading