Completed 5/22/2015, Reviewed 5/30/2015
Rereading the first Harry Potter book was a joyful experience. I was dreading my decision to reread the whole septology, rather than just the fourth book to complete my quest to read and review the Hugo winners. When I opened Sorcerer’s Stone, I was actually all warm and fuzzy inside, not unlike how it felt to reread The Lord of the Rings. I’ve only read the series once, and seen all the movies once and one twice. But it took me to a happy place and the whole book was simply an awesome experience.
Harry is an orphan living a miserable life with his unloving, hostile aunt, uncle, and cousin. One day, he gets a piece of mail by owl post that he’s been accepted at Hogwart’s School for Wizards and Witches. Despite the best efforts of his guardians to prevent this, Harry gets to enroll. He comes to understand his wizard gifts, has friends and teachers who care for him, solve a mystery, and confront the evil Lord Voldemort who murdered his parents.
What makes a juvenile book a good experience to me is the same as any adult novel. It’s when I can relate to or empathize with the main character, even though he or she is so young. One of the reasons I liked to go to school was because it wasn’t home. Home wasn’t a safe place. And even though school had its evil nuns and bullies, it was still a place I felt normal. That’s Harry’s experience and I think that’s the immediate appeal of the book.
The book tugs at the heart of my inner child with all its candy, feasts, of course magic, and the Halloween and Christmas parties with massive decorations. But it’s not all lovely. There’s the teacher who just seems to hate Harry and the bullies who seem to exist just to torment him. Then throwing in the mystery makes the book un-put-down-able. And it’s so unpretentious; sweet but not saccharine.
What’s great about rereading the book is finding all the early references to characters and things that come into fuller play later in the series. I was surprised at how many there were, and fascinated at how well planned the series was.
There is one thing that I had trouble with, and in general have trouble with in many books: the main character not opening up to someone in charge or with some authority about a problem or fear. When I get to a place in the story where that happens, I get very frustrated. I think, “Just say something!” But the reality is I, and probably we all, hold back in situations like these when our feelings of inadequacy and low self esteem overpower us. It’s the “Someone will find out I’m just a pretender” syndrome. One of my favorite adages from support groups is “We’re only as sick as our secrets”. Of course if Harry was able to speak openly and honestly with the adults, and the adults actually listened and thought through all the evidence, and maybe throw in some therapy sessions, we wouldn’t have much of a story or much literature in general.
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” is a wonderful book. It’s a comfort read, where I can let go of my over-analytical and sardonic brain and revel in some naïveté. Five out of five stars.