Thursday, July 26, 2007

Nevada Kedavra

I've collected thoughts on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which I finished sometime earrrrly Wednesday morning. Bottom line: while I did not love it -- as the last installment describing a mostly self-contained universe, it was the only book that had to measure up to our expectations, and it fell short of mine -- I keep going back to it and re-reading chapters. So that's something.

As always here at Brevity, I'll leave the spoilers, starting with my reaction, in the comments section. Also see the small discussion over at Quinn the Brain, and a large forum at Phantom Scribbler. But don't forget to speak your peace here; like Professor Snape at the Yule Ball, I get lonely...


Neel Mehta said...

Some of my aforementioned thoughts:

1. For the past few books I've been searching for a character worthy of being played by Hugh Laurie. I think I may have found him in Xenophilius Lovegood.

2. With a few exceptions, the killings seemed highly random, which to me made them less meaningful. Of course characters had to die, but it matters more when you know who killed them and what they were trying to do before they died. Cedric, Sirius, Dumbledore, Moody, and even Dobby got at least that. The deaths at the end of the book were arbitrary to the point of seeming unnecessary.

3. I thought, correctly, that Aberforth would figure into the story as a way of filling in for Dumbledore's absence. But I thought Harry would have access to Dumbledore more directly, through the pensieve, the portrait, or McGonagall. I know that JKR was trying to present Harry without the usual abundance of resources, but it makes reading his adventure less exciting.

4. Also right about Snape, but I figured he would be more central to the story this time, and not confined to a postmortem memory montage (montage!). Another loss of enjoyment; I doubt the movie will make such short shrift of Alan Rickman.

5. As I read, I noticed that Neville Longbottom was not even mentioned until page 302, and did not appear until page 570. I consider him at least the 4th most important Gryffindor for the purposes of this resolution, and as high as the 2nd. So this is a major failing of the book, in my opinion. I suspect the movie can be better simply by adding some developments within the school.

Epilogue: oh boy. It's woefully incomplete and sloppily edited. You have to put together that Victoire is Bill and Fleur's daughter because it's just thrown in there. I'm okay with not knowing what Harry does for a living (officially; I've read elsewhere he's head of Aurors), but JKR owes us the info on Hermione's career.

If ever a book needed a special edition in future years, this is it.

K-Lyn said...

1. Brilliant!

2. I agree. I read that she had a character the she expected to die in book five that got saved. Then later I heard that she had intended in the end to kill a father and a Weasley. So let us conclude that Arthur was the character that was supposed to die in 5 so then she had to create a father (a preggers Tonks we never see was highly annoying) and kill off a different Weasley. Grrr.

3. I was amongst those that saw an option for Dumbledore not being dead so I liked the Kings Cross bit a lot. Worked surprisingly well. But Aberfoth didn't seem to live up to the hype surrounding him.

4. If Harry had been given insights into him throughout the book instead of all at once through a pensieve montage this could have been tolerated. Lazy writing in my opinion. But I have hope the movie will set it right.

5. THANK YOU. I was upset over the lack of Neville as well.

6. She has stated that she had written the last chapter, presumably the epilogue, when she wrote the beginning of the first book. And it felt like it hadn't been touched in all those years. Where was the editor?

7. Still, I enjoyed reading it. It read way too quickly though. And made me much less satisfied and generally cranky about books 5 & 6. I kept thinking that it has the potential to turn into the best of movies.

Neel Mehta said...

Thanks for giving this lonely professor a dance partner. I felt unseen out there, like Flitwick.

One concern I have about movie #7 is that some of the better action scenes -- like at the Ministry and Gringotts -- have our heroes taking the form of other people. With the clear precedents of Polyjuice Potion from movies #2 and 4, the principal actors won't be in those scenes.

You mentioned "lazy writing," and I agree. Like with R.A.B. While I didn't mind that issue getting cleared up early in the book, the changed motivations of Regulus, a lifelong Slytherin type, weren't so clear to me. I was reluctant to accept Snape's turnabout later in the book, but at least that one made a little sense. I'll have to reread the Regulus stuff to figure out why he makes this sacrifice.

I've read that Arthur Weasley was supposed to die in book 5, but that she couldn't pull the trigger. I can understand why at least one of the family had to die -- you could make an argument for any of them, except maybe Charlie -- but how Fred dies felt devoid of drama. I would have liked to see a clearer redemption of Percy than the "oh crap! I need to resolve that plot point" approach. And it's not like he can take Fred's place; Percy was a tool even before he worked at the Ministry.

I assumed that the prewritten final chapter was the one before the epilogue, with the Elder Wand stuff and the defeat of Voldemort. JKR just wanted a children's book to include the line "Not my daughter, you bitch!" but had to wait 7 books to do it.

K-Lyn said...

I thought you were already in the Snape-is-not-evil camp so I'm surprised that he was a problem for you. I had a few issues with RAB as well but Snape was always on the right side for me. I just knew I'd have to wait to the end to find out the details. I knew he only killed Dumbledore on his own orders but again needed to be told why.

As for the Weasleys I think Percy would have been a much better dramatic choice. He came back ready to fight with his family and died in the process. Would have been good. And while I agree many of the deaths seemed quick and meaningless on the page I think a big fight scene in the movie where Harry sees some of his beloved struck down has the potential to be big and powerful.

That being said I hadn't thought of the polyjuice problem. I'll have to ponder that in my reread.

Over at Quinn's there was some disappointment that Hogwarts stuck with the sorting and houses. I think this could have been resolved if Draco had done something heroic. You know, realized that The Griffs had saved his life a number of times and joined to fight along side them. We needed to publicly show some Slytherins that were not on Voldy's side and thereby take away or at least lessen the stigma of that house. Kids need the freedom to be sorted into whatever house without feeling that they needed to follow their family path. There wouldn’t be nearly the us vs them if you were a Ravenclaw, your mother a Slytherin, your dad a Hufflepuff, and your bother a Gryffindor.

Neel Mehta said...

K-Lyn, I appreciate the love out here on the dance floor. I'm working my way up to Neville.

I knew Snape was not evil. What I didn't know until Book 7 was that he severed (get it?) his allegiance to Voldemort and switched to the Order all because of Lily. There wasn't any philosophical or political change in him at all. That I found strange.

As for the house sorting, I have a long-standing problem with JKR's depiction of Slytherins as merely evil. The development of Draco in the last 2 books feels flawed; I think the leap from Umbridge's hall monitor to Dumbledore-killer is a large one, and I would have preferred that Slytherins were Ministry tools in training rather than future Death Eaters. You know, like Percy, except with notions of blood supremacy.

I understand why the epilogue keeps the tradition of sorting 11-year-olds (how else can you have the interchange between Harry and his son?), but it seems phony after seeing repeated instances of characters going against their family traditions or other house-related expectations. The epilogue sort of negates what R.A.B. and Snape did.

K-Lyn said...

Well, it is your blog so ya gotta dance with them that brung ya. I tend to not be able focus with a lot of different people chiming in on different tangents so if you want to move this to direct email that's your call.

Anyway, Snape...his loyalty was not to a political party or a specific hero. It was determined long ago and it was to a cute red-head (doesn't seem all that strange to me). But besides the hair-colour JKR is trying to say something about the power of love. It may not always be roses and poetry but in her world it is the strongest force out there.

Yes, the epilogue tells us that our characters all got to live happily ever after but the fact that the things in the wizarding world didn't really change was a disappointment.

Neville yet?

Neel Mehta said...

Yeah, I'm dancing after hours. Thanks.

I'll have to reread the (brief!) Snape stuff to rethink that character. I figured his love for Lily was the undercurrent of his motivations and actions, not the current itself. Leading that double life requires a large degree of flawless logic and due care.

And I agree about the lack of change in the wizarding world. To borrow a Muggle term, if Harry Potter belonged to the Greatest Generation, then surely they can boast more as adults than a new Herbology professor.

I know there was Auror talk in a previous book, but I would have preferred to see an adult Harry at Hogwarts, the only real home he's ever had. It would draw a nice comparison to Riddle, who couldn't come back to Hogwarts, and a nice parallel to Snape, who could.

Quinn said...

Neel, that's sort of what I was hoping for with Harry. Perhaps he would have had enough of battle mode, and especially when raising children, moved away from Auror work to teach DADA at Hogwarts.

(Although that spurred a good deal of chat over at PS's about whether faculty members had to live on campus, could they have spouses, etc.)

I think it's ok to still sort, but not ok to still label Slytherins as evil and undesirable.

And never, EVER underestimate the power of a cute redhead.

Neel Mehta said...

Thanks for visiting, Hermione. I'm sure Viktor will be along soon to dance with you.

We know next to nothing about faculty quarters on campus. Trelawney says something about not coming down from her tower for much of anything. I can't remember if McGonagall is in her office or residence when she sees Harry catch the Remembrall. None are depicted as having spouses, but who knows? It's not like teachers have to take a vow of chastity.

Your take on sorting makes sense. Being a Slytherin shouldn't define your post-scholastic career any more than being a member of any other house. I prefer to think that the Slytherins in Snape's generation were under peer pressure to become Death Eaters, all because of some previous fanatic who managed to take Salazar's beliefs to the extreme, open the Chamber of Secrets while at school, and go on a superiority rampage once out.

Looking back at the book's prophecy, and its ambiguity about Harry and Neville, I wonder how things might have been different had Voldemort decided to send the Lestranges after the Potters and take on the Longbottoms himself. If we believe that he essentially chose his opponent, then his actual decision did not only result in a loss of power, but a loss of Snape.

EJ said...

Just finished the book...waited to watch the movie (5) before starting the book.

It is 1:30 am and I can finally starting reading what people are saying.

I don't mind the deaths at the end..maybe you could have made a bigger deal about them, but someone needed to die to show that this was a battle of life and death. I'm guessing she could not bring herself to kill any of the big 3 characters.

The saddest part of the book was the last 10 pages when the fight was over and the book was coming to a end.

A 9 year saga of reading Harry Potter for 100's of millions of people came to an end. (approximately 28% of american)

I doubt we will see a series catch the imagination of the public like this again.

I will say it is a little different since people are not talking about the book so that they do not give away the ending.

EJ said...

interview with rowling where she expands on the epilogue

Neel Mehta said...

Welcome, EJ! I had no idea.

Yes, compared to the Potter phenomenon, The Da Vinci Code totally sucks ass. Of course, so did the movie, and especially the book.

Stealing from the list-obsessed All About My Movies, who are your favorite and least favorite characters in the book?

One of the commenters there (Marcy) usurped my totally awesome idea of ranking Crabbe and Goyle separately -- how DOES one distinguish between the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of children's literature? -- but I would have put them on my lists only for the joke potential.

I find it impossible not to be swayed just a little by the movies. How much is anyone's guess. And I'm not bothered by trifling matters like whether they're good or evil.

1. Molly Weasley
2. Severus Snape
3. Hermione Granger
4. Neville Longbottom
5. Tom Riddle/Voldemort
6. Luna Lovegood
7. Firenze
8. Ron Weasley
9. Kingsley Shacklebolt
10. Harry Potter

Honorable mention: Fred Weasley

Least Favorite:
1. Kreacher
2. Rubeus Hagrid
3. Fleur Delacoeur
4. Dobby
5. Argus Filch
6. Quirenius Quirrell
7. Peeves
8. Madame Maxime
9. Peter Pettigrew
10. Moaning Myrtle

Dishonorable mention: George Weasley

Lockhart, McGonagall, Ollivander, Umbridge, Dumbledore... I have a feeling I could put 20 different names up next week.

K-Lyn said...

Really? You hate Hagrid? 'splain!

Neel Mehta said...

Never said I hated Hagrid. It's a testament to JKR that I don't really hate any of her characters. The list is of my least favorite, and so I included the ones I found most annoying and/or boring.

I don't really mind Hagrid as a character overall, but ever since book 4 I've found his storylines to be a bit slow and dull. I dread these passages while reading and can't wait for them to be over.

Where's your list?

K-Lyn said...

You ARE like Snape...doling out the homework! I can't make a fave one. This is tough.

Least favorite:

1. Dobby
2. Cho
3. Dobby
4. Fleur
5. Dobby
6. DOBBY!!!

But I liked Kreacher...

Neel Mehta said...

Before book 7, Dobby would have been #1 on my least favorite list. But he redeemed himself somewhat, and -- let's face it -- dead Dobby was kinda interesting.

I requested 2 rolls of parchment. You've provided me with half of one.

Quinn said...

Being Hermione, I would never skip a homework assignment:

Most Favorite:
1. Hermione
2. Minerva McGonegal
3. Albus Dumbledore
4. Harry Potter
5. Neville Longbottom
6. Dolores Umbridge (yes she was evil, but she also was awesome!)
7. Fred and George (yes, I count them as one)
8. Tom Riddle
9. Luna Lovegood
10. Neville's Gran (redeemed in book 7)

Least Favorite:
1. Cornelius Fudge
2. Percy Weasley
3. Dobby
4. Sybil Trelawny
5. Fleur
6. Argus Filch
7. Hagrid (I agree, he's been boring the last few books)
8. Pansy Parkinson
9. Cho Chang
10. Madame Maxime

Neel Mehta said...

"That is the second time you have spoken out of turn, Miss Granger. Tell me, are you incapable of restraining yourself, or do you take pride in being an insufferable know-it-all?"

Nice lists, by the way. I should have made room for Fudge, but I was afraid the movies' depiction would make me rank him too high.

And thanks for including Umbridge. Adapting the newest movie must have been easy: keep all the Umbridge parts, and see what else fits.

Why all the dislike of Cho Chang? I'm sort of neutral on that character.

Neel Mehta said...

Wait, Snape didn't make your favorites list? Andy will disown you!

Quinn said...

I think I come to HP way too invested in the teaching... Snape pissed me off from day one for his clear favoritism of Slytherin students and the way he picked on Harry. Pedagogy might have doomed Trelawney and Hagrid (both bad teachers) to the least favorite list, while Snape escaped because he was a frightfully fascinating character in all other regards.

K-Lyn said...

Apparently I am Ron in this scenario since I don't like to do my homework.

But I do have to say...Lucius.

Neel Mehta said...

Or Luscious, as some of us like to call him.

K-Lyn said...

I know I do...

Quinn said...

Ok, I've made my own post out of some of these thoughts over at my place. Mmm... Lucius. Evil never looked so good.

Neel Mehta said...

Any chance your party will change its theme to Dress as Your Favorite Slytherin?

If you do, make sure to have a lot of platinum blond(e) wigs to pass out at the entrance.

Ah, Slytherin... so evil, and yet, so pretty!