As most of you know I just spent the past two weeks re-reading the Harry Potter series. I had always meant to go back and read 1-7 all in a row but just hadn't gotten around to it. The combination of a Goodreads goal looming and feeling more than a little nostalgic as C leaves for his final year at school made this the time to do it.
When I first started my mother-in-law was in town and we were talking about how long it would take me, I guessed a couple of months. C said no way, it took him a month and I read faster and more than he does. He was right, of course. Part of what I forgot was that once you start a Harry Potter book you sort of resent anything that takes you away from reading it as quickly as possible. And since I am lucky enough to have very few time commitments right now there were days where I was able to read for 6 hours straight.
It's been years since I read the books. Five since the last was released and longer than that for the rest. I used to re-read all of the books in preparation for the latest release but after Book 5 I just didn't have time. So books 5, 6 and 7 all had only been read once. Well twice, but I don't really count it as a solid twice since it was almost concurrent. How do you read a book twice in one sitting? Well you read it and then read it again out loud. That's the way I read all but the first few chapters in books 1-7.
See that's the thing about this series, it's not just a book series to me, it's C's childhood. It's something we share. But from two totally different viewpoints. Even discussing the books yesterday you could see how our life experience changes the way we view the main themes. There is a point in the books, happened the first time and happened again this time, where I really don't like Dumbledore. I forgive him, of course, but there is a stretch when I am truly angry with him. C never reaches that point. Because he experienced the books from the point of view of the hero, I experienced them from the point of view of the hero's mom. I'm all for heroism and saving people, but using a child to accomplish that? Well... But for C it was fine.
Because he grew up with Harry. He was 6 when we started the series and almost 15 when it finished. And he knew at 15 that what Harry was doing at 17 wasn't kid stuff, but it was important and it was only Harry that could do it. And he's not the only one to have grown up with Harry. His generation and those around it all have HP as a touch stone. More so even than mine did with Narnia or Lord of the Rings. It's hard to find someone C's age that hasn't read the books, or seen the movies, or absorbed it all through pop culture. It's as much a part of who they are as anything else they grew up with. And I'm glad I was there to share it with him.
Reading for me growing up was a solitary thing. I'm sure when I was very little I was read to, but I taught myself how to read at an extremely young age (my mother insists it was before I turned 3) and I know that I read to myself from there on out. That is until 6th grade when our teacher started reading to us again. She would read when we would come in from PE to give us time to settle back in to the quiet of class from the activity of PE. It was awesome. I can still remember her voice for Gollum in the Hobbit. Then when I was high school I had a friend whose father still read to her and her sister every night. I thought that was amazing. So I decided even when C could read to himself I would still read to him as long as he wanted me to.
So at 6 he was still getting the bedtime story. But it was getting harder and harder to find good books for that sort of reading. He was also reading on his own and would tear through anything he was interested in before I could claim it for the bedtime story. I had started to hear about the Harry Potter books, there were two out at the time and the third was about to be released. The part that clinched trying it for me was the line, "these are the books you wish you had when you were a kid." Well okay then, let's give it a try.
And I am so glad we did. Because, as I said, they are the touchstone books of his generation, and we got to experience them together. I realized very quickly in to book 1 that I was going to have to read ahead a little. There were a lot of accents to cover and if I knew what was coming and who was speaking I had a better shot of pulling it off. Not to say that there weren't times that Ron and Hermione ended up getting confused, but at 11 boys and and girls sort of sound the same anyway right? Right? Oh well...even at 6 C had the good graces not to point out my mistakes and just enjoy the story. So I read them to him as bedtime stories, and daytime stories, basically anytime we could get some free time I read them to him. And then when we finished he would read them to himself. And we would talk about them. And I loved it.
Then the time between the books became longer and longer. He was almost 11 when book 5 came out. He wasn't getting the nightly story by that time. Would he still want me to read this one to him or would he want to read it himself? Reading it himself would go much faster. But he chose having it read to him. And I loved it. Book 6? Thirteen and no way was he going to want me to...oh really? Oh great! Let's pull up a couch cushion and get to it. The last book. The one that he has been waiting for. The one everyone will be talking about and avoiding spoilers is going to be almost impossible. And he is almost 15...
Excuse me while I cry a little in the corner. Seriously. It is one of my most cherished memories. These were "our" books. And I read them all out loud to him as his first experience with the story. When he has kids of his own and gets to share these books with them he will have the memory of the two of us curled up on the couch reading. Listening to the accents and voices that I pulled out of my head, liking my voice for Dolores Umbridge better than the actress who played her (and knowing how proud that makes me and that I tell EVERYONE that story).
So I love the books. I love the story itself. I am in awe of the pieces that are woven in the early books that come about in the end as important. As someone who only writes short pieces because I have a distinct lack of attention span, this is amazing to me. I love the themes she covered, is it any wonder C's generation doesn't fully trust the media or the government and is all about equality? I love that the books get darker, and deeper and more complex as Harry ages. Part of that perfectness is lost on everyone else now. They can read them all in one shot instead of growing up with the books like C's generation did. Maturing with the story. As we were talking yesterday it's hard to find someone who could really understand book 7 that would be interested in book 1. Or believe you that as basic as the first book is, the last is that complex. But he got to have them all at age appropriate spaces. And for that I'm glad.
I love that we share one of the books as a favorite and our second favorites are different. I love that we agree on some things and disagree on others. I love that he had someone built in at home to share the excitement about this new world who could talk to him endlessly about it. I love that I had the same. I love that he remembers things that I don't, that he got themes that I didn't, that he learned lessons that passed me by. I love that I was able to answer questions he had about the big themes, love, death, sacrifice. And I love that when I told him I still cried when Dumbledore died he said, "Yeah, but we know you are soft" with a sly grin on his face...
Basically I love this series for all that it is and all that we made it in to.
When is a book series more than a book series? When it's magic.