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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Re-Read Part One
Feeling a bit forlorn that your favorite series has come to an end? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. This past July, the world sobbed in unison for the ending of Harry Potter as the final movie made its way into theatres. If you’re looking for a way to fill that gaping hole, then might I suggest you join us as we (re-)read and review the series for one final Harry Potter Hurrah?
Join me (Jenny Mac Finn) and Sasha Nova as we review the books and movies one by one and partake in the opportunity to see the books through two different fans: myself, who has read all the books several times and seen every movie, and Sasha, who has been a die-hard fan of the movies but never opened the books–until now! Are you excited yet? Read on!
Sorcerer’s Stone Review – Part 1
Jenny: It’s been a long time since I read this book. I can tell you that I was in my first year of college the last time I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. That would be…wait for it, I’m old and math is not my subject…that would be eight years ago. While I’ve re-read most of the later books in the series within the past three years, I haven’t even opened the first three books in that long. You can imagine what it was like to revisit this book after such a long time.
My initial thoughts when I began reading this week was how far this series has come from the whimsy and innocence of Sorcerer’s Stone. This story transformed from a delightful and youthful story of a young boy who finds himself having adventures at Hogwarts, into a heartbreaking and inspiring story about, quite literally, a boy who lived, against all odds, and fought against all the evils of this world with strength and fortitude. I never thought, when I picked Sorcerer’s Stone off of the shelf in a distant relative’s study out of sheer boredom, that Harry’s adventures would take me where they have. I never expected the books to be anything more than enjoyable children’s novels, and I certainly never expected them to carve out a place in the classics. Here we are, almost ten years since I first read this book, and it’s certainly different reading it today, knowing what I know now about Harry Potter’s journey.
From the first sentence in this book, it reads like a Roald Dahl book, which is one of the highest compliments I think you can give a children’s book. The characters come right off the page, and the writing is quirky and humorous. It’s not a wonder at all that this series captured the hearts of children and adults alike and held them through all seven books. As Harry gets older, the reader experiences every stage of his adolescence. In Sorcerer’s Stone, we meet the innocent, kind-hearted boy from under the cupboard, and, as he experiences magic for the first time, we share in his wonder.
Sasha: I’ll admit it. I’m a Book Muggle. Harry Potter wasn’t something that caught my attention until I saw part of the first movie on TV. I promptly fell in love. It wasn’t any big surprise, either, as I’ve been a great fan of fantasy since childhood. So, when Jenny asked me to do this project with her, I jumped at the chance. Not only do I get to finally absorb all the little details the films have left out over the years, but I get to re-live the story with a friend, I get to enjoy the magic of J.K. Rowling’s writing for the first time, and I get to celebrate the fact that the final film premiered July 15th.
Like Jenny, I was struck by how much the beginning of the book reminds me of Roald Dahl’s work. In particular, life with the Dursley’s reminded me of James and the Giant Peach (and his terrible aunts), and I haven’t felt such a similar feel since the third grade. That alone is quite magical. And what a voice Rowling has! Her third person narrative has more spunk and charm than half the first person POV books on today’s market.
Our Favorite Parts!
Jenny: I have two favorites in the first half of the book. I absolutely love Uncle Vernon’s quest to keep the letters away from Harry. He knows better. He knows enough about the wizarding world at this point to know he can’t stop the letters from coming, but he absolutely refuses to believe it’s real, or that he can’t outwit them, and he goes to extreme lengths to stop Harry from receiving his mail. You get such a vivid picture of Harry’s struggle to read a letter and Vernon’s struggle to keep him from them.
My other favorite part is when we meet the Weasley’s. Molly is so kind to Harry, and from the banter of the twins, you get the feeling that they are a very close-knit family. It’s the kind of family you wish you could insert yourself into.
Sasha: I quite like the vivid descriptions of Mr. Dursley and how all he really thinks of are drills. The sheer dryness of his white-bread life makes the contrast with the wizarding world really pop and crackle. Also, for those who saw Deathly Hallows Part Two this past summer, whether you are a Book Muggle like me or not, you got to see Prof. McGonagall let loose. In the first book, however, I was also surprised at how cool a lady she is, even if she is strict. Just how great her desire is for a winning Quidditch Cup was unexpected. But the most heart-warming parts for me where when Harry sees Ginny for the first time at the train station. Knowing what I know, my little heart skipped several beats.
This time around I notice how trivial Harry’s rivalry with Malfoy seems in the first book. I can remember the first time I read this book that Malfoy seemed to be a huge antagonist. I felt like most of the book was the rivalry between the two boys in opposing houses, and I just hated Malfoy. Now, when I read through, it doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal. They are just normal kids who don’t like each other, and it is intermingled with the plot of the Sorcerer’s Stone just to give an idea of what a normal 11-year-old’s life would be like. Draco just doesn’t seem that important anymore; more of an annoyance, really. Will that change throughout the books? Of course. But it is interesting to read it now that I’m a bit older and realize that Malfoy is really just someone in the background of this book.
Sasha’s Film vs Book:
Firstly, speaking of Draco, as I read along so far, actor Tom Felton seems to me to have brought to life his character as closely to the way Rowling wrote him as humanly possible. It is as if Draco really popped right off the pages. Secondly, I was totally shocked by how much Ron and Hermione hate each other. Even though I have seen all the movies, I am very worried the pair may never learn to get along!
The Boy Who Lived
Jenny: What makes Harry who he is in this first half of Sorcerer’s Stone? His child-like wonder and awe at the world as it changes around him; his innocence and insecurities coupled with his excitement as he enters this new world.
The Wizarding World
Sasha: One of the finest aspects of this book is how little wizards understand about the Muggle world. It is really priceless. Rowling could have made them all-knowing, and she didn’t.
The best character in this section?
Jenny: Hagrid, of course! He delivers Harry to the Dursley’s doorstep as a baby, explains to him exactly who he is when he turns eleven, takes him to Diagon Alley for the first time, and greets him when he first arrives at Hogwarts. Everyone focuses on Harry’s friendship with Hermione and Ron, but I feel like they are quick to forget that Hagrid has been there for him from the very beginning.
Sasha: I must agree. Hagrid is ten times more amazing in the book than on film, although I must thank the films because I can hear actor Robbie Coltrane’s voice in my head as I read (as I can with Hermione and Draco). The fact that the gentle giant carries a pink umbrella (like Marry Poppins?) and can’t spell Voldemort make him one of the most original fantasy characters, I think, of all time.
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Come back next week as we review the second half of the first book, and please, feel free to join us in the re-read and leave your questions and comments for us below!