I was 3 in 1997 when this was published. I cannot remember who introduced me to Potter, or when this book was bought for me, but I continued to read them and bought every book in the series on the day they were released – without fail. My copy of the Philosopher’s Stone is well read, as in falling to bits, has ketchup on the first couple of pages and reeks of an old book. As you can imagine, when asked what I would grab first in the event of a fire, God forbid, it would be this book. I read so many books as a kid and pinpointing one that set me on the path to be a writer – would be hard. I know I used to rip off Aesop’s Fables and write them in my own notebook, I wouldn’t change a lot of the story. I read a lot of Jacqueline Wilson’s books too and The Babysitter’s Club series of books. Of course, when you are young there are lots of other influences too that shape you as a writer. My uncles, music and cartoons were influences on me too.
That said, a magical world of wizards, Whomping Willows (I used to be fascinated by the Willow trees in my school grounds – one that thumped you back, when those trees looked so gentle!?) muggles, dragons, and dark arts must have blown my mind at the time.
Having read the book, and watched the film, on many occasions it’s difficult to criticise it.
The dialogue isn’t great, it gets you where you want to go, and you know how much I love dialogue. There’s a moment in the book, on page 137, that makes me feel I haven’t got my head screwed on right. Harry is playing Quidditch and the POV switches to Ron and Hermione speaking to Hagrid in the stands. It’s only a few lines, but I cannot remember many moments in the series where Harry isn’t involved directly. I know there have been chapters Harry hasn’t been present. I don’t know. Maybe I am completely wrong.
As ever, I am surprised at how much is crammed into the story. It seemed I was holding the book open, halfway through, and Harry had only got off the train and was making his way across the water to Hogwarts. The Nicholas Flamel mystery is packed into a few chapters, with the two storylines with the mirror and then Norbert, before Harry, Ron and Hermione are jumping into the unknown. The memories I have of the end of the Philosopher’s Stone are superimposed with the scenes in the film. I didn’t like they cut the potions challenge, although I know they had to
Voldemort on the back of Professor’s Quirrell’s head looked terrible in the film. It makes you wonder; how do you function with Voldemort sticking out of the back of your head? What if he coughs or sneezes, wouldn’t that give him away? It’s like that negative voice in the back of my head, I can’t imagine Voldemort is a particularly pleasant housemate. Also, Dumbledore has a chat with Harry at the end, while he’s in the infirmary, and it is the start of Dumbledore fobbing Harry off, not giving him the facts. I could understand it for the first few years and then what does Dumbledore hope to achieve. Harry was going to start meeting Voldemort on a regular basis.
Thanks for reading! Here is my review of The Half-Blood Prince