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

Having decided to re-read JK Rowling’s brilliant debut novel a few days ago, after a lengthy gap, it was inevitable I was going to pick up her second book, its immediate sequel before long.

Although I last read ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ nearly ten years ago, I did see the film at the cinema, and the DVD in the meantime. They’ve inevitably coloured my imagination, but the characters in the movies were so well done that I’d say this has enhanced the experience rather than the reverse. Dumbledore, in particular, used to resemble Gandalf in my mind, but now I see the long-bearded Head of the film series, and this image is a lot closer to the book’s description.

The story opens with Harry back at his unpleasant relatives’ house for the summer preceding his second year at Hogwarts. He’s not treated well, and things get worse when a house elf called Dobby appears in his room, and proceeds to cause a great deal of trouble.

When Harry eventually reaches school by a highly unconventional (not to say illegal) method, he finds himself more unpopular than ever with certain of the students and one of the teachers, while the subject of admiration by others. Creepy things start happening, when Harry hears voices that nobody else seems able to hear, and suddenly, after a bit of wizard duelling, he’s an object of suspicion and fear even to many who had previously liked him.

It’s a darker book than the first, full of classical allusions and - as I now realise - pointers towards the seven book, and particularly the inevitable climax that occurs near the end of it. I’d remembered the basic storyline, but forgotten many of the details; I found it gripping, once again, particularly in the last few chapters.

Harry learns more about himself and his heritage in this book as, once again, he wages war against the enemy. It’s good vs evil once more, with Professor Dumbledore patiently advising, and Harry’s friends supporting him.

This book is recommended for age 9-11, and I think that’s probably correct as a minimum; fluently reading children younger than this might enjoy it, but could well find the ending scenes too frightening. However, these books have a wide appeal, and it’s by no means an easy read, so teens and adults who like the style will probably enjoy it too.

I’d suggest reading this book after ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’, and ideally as part of the entire septology, because the overall plan and plotting is so clever: each book builds on the one before and points to the one ahead. Nevertheless, it can be read as a stand-alone.

I have to admit that I don’t like this quite as much as the first (or the third, which I shall no doubt re-read soon) but it’s still an excellent read and one I would recommend highly.

Review copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews

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