21/04/2019

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (by JK Rowling)

There are a handful of children’s authors whose works I re-read regularly. Most of them are writers I first discovered as a child, or in my early teens. But there are a couple whom I did not discover until my sons were in their early teens; one of them is JK Rowling. We bought her first two ‘Harry Potter’ books shortly after moving to Cyprus, and when I finally decided to read them - before there was any controversy surrounding them - I was very impressed.

We collected all the other books in the series soon after they were published, and enjoyed them all. But the first, ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ remains one of my absolute favourite books. It contains a blend of everything I love in children’s books: it’s a school story, primarily, very much relationship-orientated. It’s a triumph of good over evil. It contains challenges, and puzzles, and a great deal of low-key humour.

There is also a Cinderella thread to this book. Harry has been brought up by the unpleasant Dursley family, with no idea that he is a wizard until his eleventh birthday. Hagrid the gamekeeper giant makes an unlikely fairy godmother character, but it’s very well done. He bombards Harry with letters, following him to a remote island so that he can take him to Hogwarts School for the first time.

Harry is rather surprised to learn that he’s well-known in the wizarding world. His parents died when he was very young, killed by the evil Lord Voldemort. Harry, though very young, survived the attack and is known as ‘the boy who lived’, marked by a strange scar on his forehead. Harry has not been told anything about his background or his past, which is useful as the reader learns about him at the same time as Harry does.

Like all the best school story heroes and heroines, Harry is far from perfect. He’s quite nervous when he starts the school, and loses his temper easily. But despite his ghastly aunt and uncle’s upbringing, he’s a likeable boy, intensely loyal to his friends and also to those who are weaker than he is. Integrity and the power of love are themes not just in this book, but in the entire series.

I last read ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ four years ago, and have just finished reading it for the fifth time. I enjoyed it very much, once again, and look forward to re-reading the rest of the series over the next few months.

Very highly recommended.

Review copyright 2019 Sue's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Steve Hayes said...

I've read the first one several time. For a while I re-read it every time a new one came out -- I'd read all the earlier ones. Until the new ones started getting too long.