Friday, January 25, 2013

Chamber of Secrets ~ Post 1


Happy Harry Potter Day, everybody!  This week we're starting Chamber of Secrets, which I normally think of as my least favorite book of the series, so I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the first half of it on its own.  I know that the rather underwhelming adventure is coming, but reading it in parts really let me enjoy this first half.  Even though it's often kind of cheesy, it also has some parts I really love, like Dobby and the Burrow.  Like in Sorcerer's Stone, Rowling does a great job of setting things up, even if the ending flags a bit.

The Master Post
My original review

So we open on Harry's birthday (note that it's his birthday this time, not Dudley's - Harry is now the subject of his own story) and the Dursleys are making him promise to not exist while they have a dinner party.  Typical abuse follows, as Harry is forced to slave away without food or drink, and then he hides himself and then... Dobby!  Who of course we will love but at this point is just bizarre and mysterious and gets Harry into trouble (side question: was the pudding just whipped cream and sugared violets?  I don't really understand English food terms).  And then further and even more horrifying abuse occurs as Harry is literally barred into his room and his diet is limited to cold canned soup.  Conveniently, a flying car containing his best friend shows up to save him!  And we go to the Burrow!

I LOVE the Burrow, and probably for all the same reasons as Harry.  The wild garden, live gnomes, delicious meals...who wouldn't love it?  And there's adorable Arthur Weasley who says things like "escapators" with pure  joy in his voice.  And then they take off for Diagon Alley (which apparently sounds like Knockturn Alley is you're coughing) and Harry ends up inside of an insignificant-seeming black cabinet in a store devoted to the Dark Arts, which, like Harry, you probably forgot entirely about (unless this is at least your second reading).  And then Lucius Malfoy fondles Ginny's book, seemingly only because he is a douche.  SEEMINGLY.

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Then Harry and Ron decide to fly the car to school in a chapter that is entirely silly and clearly meant to appeal to twelve-year olds and works in that function, though I find it rather excessive and hard to swallow as an adult.  I mean, Harry and Ron do have some common sense, even when Hermione's not around.  Happily, it's not as heroic a stunt as they imagined, though they do get far too much credit for it.

And Harry is back in school!  And this time around, we get to see more of the classes, which is fun and proves that Hogwarts is actually an academic institution.  Some of my favorite parts of the series are when we see what magical classes look like.  The mandrakes and even the pixies are such fun.  And also there's Colin Creevey, who is really annoying right now but makes me happy/sad when I think about Deathly Hallows, because he really just loves Harry, you know?  We also hear about a black and gold vanishing cabinet, which Peeves damages, and we forget about entirely.  BUT WAIT, that's twice now!

But then Harry Potter-verse gets real, you guys, complete with derogatory epithets.  And even though this is very much still a children's book (see previous chapter), it's getting a little deeper and darker.  This magical world isn't as fun as it may seem - there's prejudice and not just the "everyone hates the Slytherins" prejudice that's meant to appeal to immature readers, but true, underlying prejudice.

And finally...the mystery!  A cat has been attacked...the floor's all wet...and Harry stands accused of an undetermined crime!  Also, he's hearing a voice making violent threats that nobody else can hear...what suspense!  It's enough to make you keep reading!

My only major complaint about this half of the novel (despite the lameness of the flying car) is the amount of reminding Rowling does, as though I'm not currently rereading the whole series back-to-back.  Yeah, kids (who at least originally were the intended audience) can forget things, but I think repeating so much information really underestimates them.  If a kid (or an adult for that matter) likes a book enough to read the sequel, he or she probably paid attention to the first novel and knows what's going on.  Even the most inept reader would remember that Harry Potter is a wizard, which Rowling reminds us of on page 3.

One question that I meant to ask last week - why do wizards hide magical fauna and flora from Muggles as well, and how is that even possible?  I mean, obviously they have to for the sake of the story, but what's the purpose?  The existence of a dragon in no way confirms the existence of magical folk, and it seems like it would be far less trouble to not deal with this problem.  I know this isn't really something I can get an answer to the illogic and like impossibility of it just bothers me.

16 comments:

  1. I've always been confused by the pudding dessert thing, too.

    And yeah, keeping Harry an actual prisoner, that's a big step in the Dursley abuse. Also, you'd think, since they're so concerned about what the neighbors think, that they wouldn't put bars on the windows. The neighbors would talk, wouldn't they?

    I do think Muggles knowing dragons are real would suggest magical people so I'm not confused why they would WANT to hide magical flora & fauna. I'm confused HOW they can manage it. How the hell do they manage to keep it all hidden from non-magical people? I assume animals and plants don't really get that there are certain people that shouldn't see them.

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    1. The HOW is definitely an issue. I mean, seeds get caught in the wind right? And dragons fly? Can they control those elements? Methinks not.

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  2. OMG: we used the same Arthur Weasley gif! And then what you say about the flying car. It's like we're brain-twins today.

    As for that whole "let me re-explain a term or situation or person I introduced in a previous book" excuse, I've never bought it, either. Nobody needs that, because (1) nobody starts a series in the middle like that anyway, and (2) readers aren't necessarily dumb.

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  3. Yeah, the flying car doesn't really do it, reading this as an adult. I'm with you in that it doesn't easily fit with their characters.

    And ha! to Diagon Alley sounding like Knockturn Alley if your coughing. That is not a normal cough, my friend. He should get that checked out.

    I think we should all go live in the Burrow.

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  4. In regard to the recapping, do people ever read these books out of order? Because I assume that's part of the reason JKR recaps everything like crazy, but I know that if I came in on the third book, being reminded of the rules of quidditch wouldn't really help me overall. You know.

    I also am curious about the dragons. I mean, how are wizards explaining that away? If a muggle gets burned by a dragon, do they claim it as a freak forest fire or spontaneous combustion? So many questions! I think we should compose a list and send it to JKR at the end of this readalong.

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    1. It's actually a big pet peeve of mine when Rowling is all like oh, so-and-so married this person and Dumbledore was gay and this other thing happened that I forgot to mention. If it's not in the book, it doesn't count! Really, she should just write more books set in the magical world.

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  5. The beginning was soooo weird, with the cake. Was it a cake? I don't know what the heck a sugared violet is, and if it should even belong on a "cake".

    I completely forgot about the vanishing cabinet until know - good call!

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  6. The flying car chapter is RIDICULOUS. Come on kids, you know damn well that the Weasleys have to eventually come back out, why not just wait and tell them what happened? These kids take matters into their own hands WAY too often. The dumbness of them deciding to take the car far outweighs any annoyingness from Dobby, which seems to be a lot of people's complaint with this book so far.

    And how is this my FOURTH OR FIFTH time reading these books and I never noticed that Peeves broke one of the vanishing cabinets??? I'm an idiot. Well done!

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    1. Lol, this is way beyond my 4th or 5th reread and it's the first time I noticed them, so don't feel bad!

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  7. *Puts on English hat* My thoughts on the pudding are that it's either a trifle, or like an Eton Mess kind of thing, since they both have a loooot of cream on top. I'm assuming it's NOT just cream and sugared violets, because... No one would eat just that. We're not quite that strange.

    DUDE I forgot about the Mr. Malfoy touching Ginny's book and then just giving it back to her thing OMG! Mind is re-blown. AND THE CABINETS ZOMG!

    The Burrow is the amazingest. I second Kayleigh's motion!

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  8. All these posts make me wish I was taking part in the readalong! HP was such a big part of my childhood, I will always love it :)

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    1. You can still join! At least one new person joined this week, it's not too late!

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  9. My beef is that it's all reminding of things like, Voldemort is Bad, and Voldemort tried to kill Harry, and It Did Not Work. Which, I mean. Game of Thrones this is not.

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  10. I like all the dark arts bits in this book. They are pretty good and dark. The abuse -- Harry and Dobby-- is also really dark.

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  11. Every time Mr. Weasley rejoices in a Muggle item, my heart sings. I love it when he meets the Dursleys in Book 4. And every moment about Mr. Weasley in the whole world. He's a doll.

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