Quick Review: The Harry Potter series

Over this past weekend, I finished reading the Harry Potter series for the first time. Somehow, I managed to know very little about the story coming in. I enjoyed the books and have some thoughts on the seven books:

1.These are books addressing fairly weighty topics. From love to death, friendship to evil, Harry and his friends encountered a lot. Some portions, particularly much of the last three books, were quite dark.

2. Even with weighty topics, the books had a wit about them. There were many small humorous moments that Rowling included. Perhaps it is just a dry British wit or perhaps it was the often funny interplay between the wizard and Muggle worlds.

3. I’m not quite sure what the main theme is that readers should take away from the books. It has a basic good vs. evil theme though it has more nuance since it is the love Harry’s mom has for him as a baby that eventually helps him meet his goals. But where this love comes from (and also where evil comes from) is left unexplored. This could be read as a coming-of-age story as Harry learns who he is and completes his task. It could be a hero’s journey tale as Harry overcomes obstacles to set the world right. Friendship is a major theme, particularly between Harry, Ron, and Hermione. There is a lot here in addition to the main action sequences and it might have been worthwhile for the characters to reflect more on the implications of their actions.

4. The characters are likable. Harry, Ron, and Hermione had a strong relationship and it was satisfying when Ron and Hermione finally came together. I was surprised by the number of school friends who were constant characters including the other Weasley kids, Neville, Luna, and others. The saddest part of the series for me was Dumbledore’s death – of course, it turns out it happened a little differently than it first appeared. Perhaps my only complaint: some of the teenage angst (among Harry, Ron, and Hermione) seemed like overkill. Another small complaint: two of the main female characters, Hermione and Ginny, could have been more fleshed out.

5. The ending seemed somewhat abrupt with the flash-forward sequence. I was left wanting to know more about life for all of them.

6. I’m not sure I want to see any of the movies. Of course, I have seen some images of the actors. But I feel that if I saw the movies, it would change my understanding and mental images of the books. (Looking back, I wish I had read all of the Lord of the Rings books before seeing the first movie.)

My conclusion according to my wife: I shouldn’t have waited so long to read such a great series.

My conclusion: even if I was behind, I still enjoyed reading the series this summer.