First of all I have read this book more times than I can count, literally. I know I’ve read this first one at least twelve times because that’s how many copies of it I own, but that is a gross underestimate because many of those copies I have read multiple times (especially the battered paperback I still have from 1999). I also used to re-read every year, and every time a new book in the series came out, so I’ve read this one the most. My OCD is crying inside because I didn’t keep track of what books I read and how often as a child. I have to stop dwelling on this. My point is, I have reviewed or written about this book a lot, so this time around, instead of doing an overview (which sounds completely overwhelming), I’m just going to pull quotes, random little things I notice while reading.
I wanted to start 2019 off auspiciously, and I really wanted a re-read, so what better way than to make this my first book of the year? My plan for now is to start February-July off with each subsequent book in the series, so this way I have will have many auspicious months. My magical thinking is strong.
Lastly, if you haven’t read Harry Potter yet (why?) this review probably won’t be much interest to you. I’m basically just going to spoil things and talk about things in minute detail with no context or explanation.
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“If the motorbike was huge, it was nothing to the man sitting astride it. He was almost twice as tall as a normal man and at least five times as wide. He looked simply too big to be allowed, and so wild – long tangles of bushy black hair and beard hid most of his face, he had hands the size of dustbin lids and his feet in their leather boots were like baby dolphins. In his vast, muscular arms he was holding a bundle of blankets.”
Just wanted to highlight this little bit because of the way she describes Hagrid using objects you wouldn’t think could be used to describe a human-shaped person. Dustbin lids and baby dolphins. Bless.
“Mr. Dursley stood rooted to the spot. He had been hugged by a complete stranger. He also thought he had been called a Muggle, whatever that was. He was rattled. He hurried to his car and set off for home, hoping he was imagining things, which he had never hoped before, because he didn’t approve of imagination.”
I feel like this is Jo posting a warning sign on her book for all Dursleyish people who also don’t approve of imagination to GTFO.
“Inside was a large, sticky chocolate cake with Happy Birthday, Harry written on it in green icing.
Harry looked up at the giant. He meant to say thank you but the words got lost on the way to his mouth, and what he said instead was, ‘Who are you’?'”
I just think this is really sweet. He meant to say thank you but couldn’t. And later, the same thing happens to him when Hagrid gives him the photo album with all the pictures of his parents, only that time he’s struck entirely speechless.
“‘Do you mean to tell me,’ he growled at the Dursleys, ‘that this boy—this boy!—knows nothin’ abou’—about ANYTHING?’
Harry thought this was going a bit far. He had been to school, after all, and his marks weren’t bad.
‘I know some things,’ he said. ‘I can, you know, do math and stuff.'”
I have always loved Harry’s reaction here. I don’t know why.
“‘If anyone but Gringotts goblin tried that, they’d be sucked through the door and trapped in there,’ said Griphook.
‘How often do you check to see if anyone’s inside?’ Harry asked.
‘About once every ten years,’ said Griphook with a rather nasty grin.”
Little moments like this were almost completely removed from the films, and that is why they will always be inferior. These books have such sly bite at times.
“Well, no one really knows until they get there, do they, but I know I’ll be in Slytherin, all our family have been—imagine being in Hufflepuff, I think I’d leave, wouldn’t you?”
“‘And what are Slytherin and Hufflepuff?’
‘School houses. There’s four. Everyone says Hufflepuff are a lot o’ duffers, but — ‘
‘I bet I’m in Hufflepuff,’ said Harry gloomily.
‘Better Hufflepuff than Slytherin,’ said Hagrid darkly. ‘There’s not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin.'”
Such blatant Hufflepuff dismissal goes on in this book, by almost everyone. As a quintessential Hufflepuff, this greatly upsets me. Also Slytherin gets a bad rap, but at least that’s SOMEWHAT justified. And did we ever figure out for sure if this line was Jo mistake or a Hagrid mistake? Because Sirius Black was in Gryffindor, and at this point, they think he went bad.
“Do either of you know what house you’ll be in? I’ve been asking around, and I hope I’m in Gryffindor, it sounds by far the best; I hear Dumbledore himself was in it, but I suppose Ravenclaw wouldn’t be too bad.”
HERMIONE, NOT YOU TOO.
“’You’ll soon find out some wizarding families are much better than others, Potter. You don’t want to go making friends with the wrong sort. I can help you there.’
He held out his hand to shake Harry’s, but Harry didn’t take it.
‘I think I can tell who the wrong sort are for myself, thanks,’ he said coolly.”
Harry is sassy af. This will continue throughout the series.
“Perhaps Harry had eaten a bit too much, because he had a very strange dream. He was wearing Professor Quirrell’s turban, which kept talking to him, telling him he must transfer to Slytherin at once, because it was his destiny. Harry told the turban he didn’t want to be in Slytherin; it got heavier and heavier; he tried to pull it off but it tightened painfully — and there was Malfoy, laughing at him as he struggled with it — then Malfoy turned into the hook-nosed teacher, Snape, whose laugh became high and cold — there was a burst of green light and Harry woke, sweating and shaking.”
For some reason, the very first time I read this book, this paragraph gave me a nightmare. I was so upset about someone trying to make Harry be a Slytherin. Maybe I was just feeling guilty because I’d stolen the book off my sister’s bedroom floor and never gave it back.
“Swish and flick, remember, swish and flick. And saying the magic words properly is very important, too—never forget Wizard Baruffio, who said ‘s’ instead of ‘f’ and found himself on the floor with a buffalo on his chest.”
I legitimately think about this line all the time.
“One morning in mid-December, Hogwarts woke to find itself covered in several feet of snow. The lake froze solid and the Weasley twins were punished for bewitching several snowballs so that they followed Quirrell around, bouncing off the back of his turban.”
Voldemort is in that turban, so the Weasleys are throwing snowballs at his face. #NeverForget
“I’m worth twelve of you, Malfoy.”
“Before Malfoy knew what was happening, Ron was on top of him, wrestling him to the ground. Neville hesitated, then clambered over the back of his seat to help.”
Neville is the most precious gumdrop of a person.
“Professor McGonagall watched them turn a mouse into a snuffbox—points were given for how pretty the snuffbox was, but taken away if it had whiskers.”
Okay, so here is something I’ve been low-key upset about for years, and I would be interested to hear thoughts. What are the ethics, exactly, that are involved into either turning a live mouse into a snuffbox (which would be killing the mouse, yes?) or turning a snuffbox into a mouse (which would be creating life???). I just picture all these eleven year old children casually murdering mice and then worrying about how pretty it is, and not grappling with the reality of just having killed a living being??
“I’m never going over to the Dark Side!”
I’m really glad she moved away from using this phrase to describe Voldemort and his side of the conflict. Too much Star Wars connotations to be taken seriously.
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Thank you for reading this pointless, rambling post.