Thursday, July 26, 2007

Harry Potter: Book 7 - The Experience

Guest blogger Meena, who sometimes stops by here, reviews the experience of the inexorable literary force called Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Any more writing like this and she'll get her own book deal for sure. Jeet, I hope you like this.

So, the much awaited release day of the last, er...rather lets just say the 7th Harry Potter book went like this.

My cousins and I had pre-ordered 6 books at Barnes & Noble. We were each going to get a copy, make a night of it and read it through by Saturday morning in my house. On Saturday night, one of my cousins was set to host a huge house-warming party. Out of town guests had already arrived at her place but undaunted, she prepared to pull an all nighter the night before.

She had a pool going to let us bet on all major characters on whether they would live or die. Intense discussions on the characters ensued all Friday evening much to the disgust of my aunts, mom and grandma. In fact, my grandma was bewildered when it was explained to her that all this was for a novel and not for some critical exam like she assumed.

By 9 o'clock on Friday night the air was tense with waves of disapproval radiating from my aunt who was naturally anxious about the party. The plan was to take turns standing in line from 9pm. Accordingly, one of my friends made an initial foray to Barnes and Noble and discovered that, surprise! the line was already several hundred people long.

I had never been to a midnight purchase of a madly awaited book before so I dont know what the stores usually do in terms of moving and managing people. On Friday, they had a system going which no doubt they thought was ingenious. They would hand out wrist bands named for different characters to 200/300 people at a time. Each band was given a certain time that the counter will open to them. We got a band that was 10th down on the list. That meant we may not be able to get the book until 2am.

When we went to the store at midnight it was humming with anticipation and chaos reigned. Young, pimply store clerks dressed in character costumes were leading people up and down in long lines that to all appearances went in circles around the bookshelves in the store and got nowhere. People in the Voldemort queue and Ginny queue crossed, recrossed and intermingled so many times that they decided to unite.

Dutiful dads who brought their kids prepared to hunker down for a grim wait. Bitter experiences at the INS came to mind. I went and dutifully found what I believed to be my place in line and started on the circuitous journey. I need not have worried. One of my young cousins with utter contempt for the inept handling of the lines and magnificent disregard for silly rules walked into a queue near the counter and found himself supplied with books he needed and was paying for them 15 minutes after we walked in the store.

Clearly a few years stay in this country have not jeopardized the desi spirit of this veteran of dozens of trips to Tirupati.

The book turned out be some 750 pages long and seemed to promise long-awaited answers and closure. We managed to finish it in about 11 hrs with short naps in between. I have to tell you that I am not a fan of the Harry Potter series for its story or the setting, etc. I could not care less if Harry lives or dies.

Escapist fiction is my secret indulgence, and authors who are capable of sketching and sustaining well developed characters will grip me. Here is an author who has the smarts to know that the joy of such elaborate stories are the secondary characters. I think I kept going back to read the stories only for that reason. Plots can be contrived but not the characters. Even the movies were an afterthought for me.

Maybe that was why it was not a satisfying book. All the events did lead up to a magnificent showdown, a great war and many deaths. In short, sounded like any two-dimensional epic saga. Although the book had its moments, especially in scenes with Dumbledore's last conversations, Dobby's fate, Neville's heroism etc. it could not save Voldemort from becoming a Mogambo-style evil villain and Ron and Hermione just the sidekicks.

The dark satire and depth of the previous books were just not there. The less said about the epilogue the better. Too sugary sweet and Bollywoodish. Surely, JK understands the reason why her fans get hysterical over Colin Creevey's fate or George Weasley's feelings?

Its all about the characters. After making us know and love Hermione, giving her an ending as trite as - 'oh yeah, she got married and had kids' is a sad letdown.


Anonymous said...

Meena, not being a "Harry Potterian" I have not read the last book but I enjoyed your review, esp the "sub-plots." Bravo!

Anonymous said...

For true Potter fans like us, the books is always incidental. I stood in line too!!!

Anonymous said...

Well, I did not want to read your blog until I had completed reading The Deathly Hallows. didn;t want a SPOILER. Now, that I am done reading it, here I am with my comments.

First, did not think myself of a true potter fan, so I did not preorder the book. Agreed, I read the books and watch the movies but as a way to bond with my son.

Well, I realized I was so wrong...

The week of 16th July, I was in training and as an ICE BREAKER, the question was to list 3 important personalities with whom I would like to have dinner (30 seconds). sorry, no prizes for correct answers. (lol)

Mahatma Gandhi
Shah Rukh Khan (You know me... I am filmi)
Harry Potter. (I had just watched "The order of the Phoenix" and Jeet and I were up late discussing stuff)

The night of 21st July, we were on a vacation at Wisconsin Dells. I atually went to a local WAL-MART to buy the book. Now, I would have never done it alone, it was with a colleague of mine. Seeing the long line, we decided not to wait. But this was enough for me to admit that I am a Potter fan and was as anxious to find out What happens to Harry. I had this feeling, that Severus Snape is not the Villian.

To make a long story short, I agree with you Meena that the ending was a bit cheesy, but as a Potter fan (Yes, I admit it) I have no complaints.

In fact, got a kick from the last chapter ...
Harry actually named one of his Albus Severus Potter.

My son was actually upset with me, as I glued to the book. But on the whole the book did put a closure to all the questions that arose from "Half Blood prince"