Note: this post contains absolutely no spoilers on any of the seven Harry Potter books.
I just turned the last page of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” and I have to say that this was probably one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in years.
It’s not a compliment I give lightly, and unfortunately, most of the books that I read are very easily forgettable, but the Harry Potter series has managed to keep my interest up ever since the first one came out.
I remember noticing a friend reading it shortly after it came out. I had never heard of Harry Potter before and a quick glance at the back cover prompted me to ask the question that tens of thousands of people have asked these past years about Harry Potter: “Isn’t this a child’s book?”.
Not that there is anything wrong with reading child’s books. As a matter of fact, just a few years ago, I made a point of reading up on some classical children stories (such as the Chronicles of Narnia) in order to catch up on this aspect of the American culture I didn’t grow up with. My interest was therefore piqued about Harry Potter, and when my friend observed casually that “Yes, but there’s something about the way this is written that makes it really gripping”, I quickly bought the book and started a long journey in the depths of the wizarding world.
In hindsight, there are two points that I absolutely adored about the series, and particularly that last book:
- It’s a complex plot even though it’s written from Harry’s perspective pretty much all the time.
I tend to like books with elaborate plots, twists and big arcs that form a complex story. These books usually unfold their plot by switching points of views, places, people and sometimes even points in time. These artefacts are necessary to set up the background for your readers and, to some extent, to confuse them a bit. It’s a bit like prestidigitation and sleight of hand: you want to set up your readers so that you can surprise them with A when they expect B.
This kind of magic trick is much harder to achieve when you’re writing your story completely linearly and following your hero from page one until the end. Except for a few flashbacks, you don’t have a lot of freedom to set up your twists and revelations, which must all occur through the eyes of your hero.
I think J.K. Rowling’s mastery in this art will be studied in literary schools for years to come.
- It’s pretty obvious that J.K. Rowling knew where she was going with her story from the first book on.
This last book contains revelations and explanations that are absolutely startling and yet perfectly consistent with the previous books. Maintaining coherence and vision throughout seven books written over several years is no small feat, and while similar books and TV shows are frantically trying to keep up with their own contradictions and cheap cliffhangers to try and maintain the illusion of a vision (I’m looking at you, “Lost”), J.K. Rowling’s reigns supreme in the art of building up an epic yet entertaining world (as opposed to… “The Lord of the Rings”, which is complex but dull).
I have felt sad every single time I have turned the last page of a Harry Potter book, and this one is no exception, except that the melancholy is increased by the realization that it’s now time to say goodbye to our spell casting friends for good.
Here’s to hoping that J.K. Rowling’s next creation won’t take too long and that it will be as enthralling as the Harry Potter saga.