Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (by JK Rowling)

This year, as well as many other books, I’m gradually reading my way through JK Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ series of books. I’ve just finished the second one, ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’. It’s the fourth time I have read this book in less than twenty years, but I appreciate it every time.

The book opens, as the first one did, with Harry at home with his Dursley relatives. They are caricatures of unpleasant people: greedy, selfish, and vehemently against anything unusual or ‘abnormal’. They class Harry in this category, as he is part of the wizarding world.

But this year, Harry knows who he is. So rather than resignedly accepting his fate as an unwanted orphan, he is miserable because he has not heard from any of his friends from Hogwarts School. His horrible cousin Dudley is afraid of him and Harry has no friends other than those at school. Then a house elf arrives in Harry’s bedroom, and things get considerably worse…

There’s an exciting rescue, a dramatic and illegal car-ride, threats of expulsion if Harry and his friend Ron break any more rules, and the glorious start of term. Except that something is going on, something which Harry is more aware of than anyone else. And he has a talent which he takes for granted, but which is a shock to his friends when they learn about it, and a cause of fear to those who don’t know him so well.

The new teacher at Hogwarts is Professor Gilderoy Lockhart, a flamboyant, rather arrogant teacher who has written many books (all of which are required reading for his classes). Unfortunately, although it seems that he has rid the world of many of its worst enemies, and solved all kinds of problems, he doesn’t actually know very much about his subject. Another new character in the book is Ron’s sister Ginny. She had a very brief cameo appearance in the first book but comes into her own as a first year Hogwarts student in this one, and has an important role to play in the story.

It’s only four years since I last read ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’, and I thought I remembered the story fairly well. I did, of course, recall the opening to the book as well as the main conflict, the dramatic climax and the ending. But there were many details I had forgotten. Despite knowing what was coming, it made gripping reading.

As with the first book, ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’, the writing is excellent, with plenty of action and realistic conversation. Her characters are believable too. Perhaps Hermione is a tad too brainy and hard-working for realism; but she makes an excellent third in the trio with Harry and Ron. But she’s not perfect. I had remembered her plan to infiltrate the Slytherin ranks during the Christmas holidays, but had entirely forgotten why Hermione herself does not, in fact, join her friends.

Knowing the overall theme of the series, with its broadly Christian good vs evil parable that culminates in the seventh book, I was able to see some of the background and clues to the eventual outcome laid down in this book. Harry learns why he is in the Gryffindor house rather than Slytherin. He learns the importance of trust and loyalty, too, and more about the power of unconditional love.

There are some scary scenes in this book, including some violence and gore. So it would not be appropriate for sensitive children, and I wouldn’t advise reading it aloud to a child younger than about eight. But for anyone over that age, including teenagers and adults, I would recommend it very highly. Best if you have already read the first in the series, but it could stand alone too.

Note: The film version of 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' is very well done, but even if you have seen it, I would recommend reading the book as there is so much more in it to appreciate. 

Review copyright 2019 Sue's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Steve Hayes said...

I thinkit's my favourite of the Harry Potter books, and I too have read it 4-5 times, though not as recently as four years ago. Perhaps it's time to read it again.