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the wait is over

July 17, 2005

The latest instalment of J.K. Rowling’s wildly popular childrens’ series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was released today. No doubt millions of readers around the world have already finished it, barely hours after its release. And with good reason. Half-Blood Prince, despite its rather silly sounding title, is the darkest and most intense of its siblings, and perhaps, the most beautiful.

As usual, Rowling is resplendent with turns, twists and her usual tricks. But we suspend our disbelief – after all, these are books for children, or so they say. In this suspension lies a thrill so incomparable to anything else: the imagination. And so we encounter love potions, concoctions that bring luck, flying cups, ghosts, vampires, centaurs, gigantesque spiders feeling affection for half-giant-half-human creatures, spells, broomsticks – reawakening the chidish joy in believing in things impossible.

Which makes the book, basically, a lot of fun. Rowling’s touch is this time more subtle, and the interplay of humour and irony more delicious. One gets the feeling that she is taking herself far less seriously this time around. The verbal and situational comedy that was sorely lacking in instalments 4 and 5 has returned, with a vivacious vengeance – ‘probity probes’ are stuck into places where they do not belong to ascertain the veracity of certain persons, Harry’s tongue is sharp and acidic, teenage (so adult, and yet so childish) yens are whimsically sketched, Luna Lovegood’s mad conspiracy theories continue in mad abundance (for example, the Aurors are trying to take down the establishment with ‘a combination of Dark magic and gum disease’).

Which is not to say that the book has lost its serious touch: far from that. In abandoning the top-heavy, faux adolescent-angsty tone that dominated Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix, Rowling throws the dark aspects of the book into relief. It is when she adopts a ‘Harry is sixteen and therefore can have no fun because of all the hormones in his blood’ line of thought that the book becomes flat and unbelievably boring. For example, Rowling’s treatment of teenage crushes and puppy love is, at best, cringeworthy, and, at worst, retch-inducing. Adolescents turn various shades of pink, eat each others’ faces out in attempts to ‘snog’, get together, break up, cast longing glances and – get this – a creature in Harry’s chest, presumably his heart, threatens to jump out each time he catches a glimpse of the very pretty and very popular Ginny. Blah and blah and blah: Rowling isn’t breaking new ground with her inventive use of language, or with an accurate or moving portrayal of how crushing crushes can really be, so why all these bloody diversions?

I mean, these people are being hunted down by the bloody evillest, vilest, most powerful wizard of all time, and yet they find time to bloody snog each other in corridors and let their emotions get in the way of, say, survival – Harry doesn’t bother with Dumbledore’s instructions because he’s too darned busy sorting out the creature in his chest and the creatures in the chests of Ron and Hermione, who are trying to spite each other mutually by making out with and dating different people.

Which ruins an otherwise interesting story – the plot, as they say, thickens, as all becomes clear, and all becomes not-so-clear. Questions are solved – how did Voldemort attain immortality? what is his final game-plan? is Snape good or bad? Questions are yet to be solved – how will the final challenge between Harry and Voldemort turn out? who is this R.A.B. person? how will ‘love’ overcome all the powers of the Dark? why do we have to wait another bloody two years before we can read the next and final book in the series?

Of course, Rowling’s preachy ‘love will conquer all’ moral gets a bit irritating, but that does not detract from the general sinister quality of the entire book (the shadow of Voldemort is never far) and some deeper issues that are posed: for example, young Draco Malfoy actually becomes a Death Eater – and we finally get to pity him as he tries valiantly to redeem the family from incipient doom and certain shame. The genuine friendship between Dumbledore and Harry is touching, as is the final goodbye – if a bit rushed (as the ending was).

All in all a very good read: as I have mentioned, we should all be eagerly awaiting the last book. And hopefully Rowling will outdo herself, once again, and prove that she really is, saving the best for last.

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One comment

  1. “It is when she adopts a ‘Harry is sixteen and therefore can have no fun because of all the hormones in his blood’ line of thought that the book becomes flat and unbelievably boring. For example, Rowling’s treatment of teenage crushes and puppy love is, at best, cringeworthy, and, at worst, retch-inducing. Adolescents turn various shades of pink, eat each others’ faces out in attempts to ’snog’, get together, break up, cast longing glances and – get this – a creature in Harry’s chest, presumably his heart, threatens to jump out each time he catches a glimpse of the very pretty and very popular Ginny. Blah and blah and blah: Rowling isn’t breaking new ground with her inventive use of language, or with an accurate or moving portrayal of how crushing crushes can really be, so why all these bloody diversions?”

    I couldn’t disagree more. The main characters in these books ARE children growing into adolescents! And I think Rowling depicts their behavior with brilliance. They don’t think like older adults because they’re NOT older adults. It doesn’t matter how intelligent a teenager is–he or she is still a teenager. The only think I found unrealistic about these teenagers is the fact that they weren’t having sex all the time. Now, I was a teenager way back in the 1960s and I was having more sex back then than Harry, Ron, Hermione, et al. are having in these books many years later!



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