I’ve been thinking about Harry Potter recently.
Well, I work at Bloomsbury and, for better or for worse, being the global (sans US) publisher of Harry Potter, the series defines us. We are always doing Harry Potter events, we’re given a low down of the publicity campaigns in work emails and of course, I know all about the (many) new editions. So, Harry Potter being on my mind is not completely out of the ordinary.
The 20-year anniversary of The Prisoner of Azkaban was a few weeks ago and this book is probably more significant to me than any other book in the series, simply because it was the first Harry Potter book I had ever read and I came to it due to a unique set of circumstances.
I was in Pakistan, on holiday slash visiting family. I was 9 years old and I was bored. (Ask any ethnic kid who was taken abroad to visit family for a ‘holiday’. A lot of the time was spent sitting in your grandparents/aunties/uncles homes, all made worse if none of your cousins were your age. I digress.) So, my older cousin bought me a whole bunch of books to read; Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
There was something off about the books though. The paper was thinner. The printing was poor and the text has always been a little smudged and faded. Having fished my copy of Prisoner of Azkaban out, I see that the pages have yellowed in a way that only very old books do. So, to be honest, I’m wondering whether it’s some sort of bootleg copy of the book.*
But I fell in love with it.
I read this book to death. It became the book I kept in the glove compartment of the car and I’d read it whenever I could. It was my only Harry Potter book for a long time, and because of that, once I had read the latest book, I would come back to it.
It was my entry to the Harry Potter universe and to this day it remains my favourite book in the series. This is partly because of the sentimental value it holds, but also because there are so many fantastic elements in it: a clever time travel plot (throw in some SF elements, I’m *bound* to love it); the Marauder’s Map (I love me some cool artefacts); introducing one of my favourite characters in the series – Sirius Black (also Gary Oldman as Sirius Black = perfection).
I also remember the film adaptation being darker than it’s predecessors and therefore cooler. (Though the first time I saw it, I was so furious by all the changes made, especially the side plot involving the Firebolt, ahh young Arub, what a pedant you were.)
I’ve been thinking about re-reading Harry Potter for a long time. I haven’t read any of the books in years or seen any of the films since Deathly Hallows Part 2 was released. Unlike a lot of readers out there, and indeed non-readers, I fell out of the fandom. I think perhaps it was because as I’ve grown older, I’ve realised that I lean towards sci-fi over fantasy. It also felt like, following the final film, there was a strange sense that people might forget about Harry Potter and that it was all over. And in response, Harry Potter has been *everywhere*.
We had the release of Pottermore, the Warner Brother’s Studio Tour, the Wizarding World opened. We have recently found ourselves with a spin-off franchise in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. There is a whole HP section in the Primark on Tottenham Court Road amongst many places that sell HP merch. And I get it, Harry Potter was a huge cultural landmark. It changed the face of children’s publishing. It’s great to have easy access to the fandom you love. I fell in love with it too. But I was also definitely put off by how commercialised it became.
I fell out of the Doctor Who fandom for a while for a completely different reason but re-watching the entire series reminded me of why I fell in love with it in the first place. This is why I love re-reading books too, because you know that it was something you loved the first time, so you’re guaranteed to have a good time. Having some space from the fandom, though it sounds bizarre, is what I needed to appreciate it again.
I’m leaving Bloomsbury in a couple of weeks, and not being constantly surrounded by Harry Potter means I think I can enjoy it again in my own time. I’m going to complete my collection (no, I *still* don’t own all of the books, folks I was a child of libraries) and I’m going to start reading Harry Potter from the start.
I can’t wait.
*Side note: I was talking to a friend recently about my copy of Prisoner of Azkaban and she suggested that I might not have ever read the real version and my decades-old knowledge of the book might be completely wrong, which has never occurred to me before!
This was a terribly self-indulgent post, so to make it less self-indulgent, please tell me about how you first discovered Harry Potter or, is it something that’s completely passed by you?