Books

Book 564: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2) – J.K. Rowling

I finally caved and bought digital copies for my kindle. It’s good because it’ll allow me to read them when I travel if I have nothing else to read. And it’s also good because it means I’ll get rid of my “reading” copies bringing my total number owned down by seven, which I know Tim will appreciate 🙂

I’ve read this countless times and have already posted one response to this back in July 2012. I don’t recall loving this one when I first read it, but I also didn’t have that strong of an antipathy for it either. It carries the story forward in a way that works and I appreciate that. What I do notice more and more the older I get and the more-often I read the books is I find so many hints that Rowling dropped for the later novels.

There are some crazy obvious ones, like when Dumbledore drops Mrs. Figg’s name at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and I was like HOLY SHIT, but there are more subtle ones like all of these below from much later in the series:

“Harry looked quickly around and spotted a large black cabinet to his left; he shot inside it and pulled the doors closed, leaving a small crack to peer through. Seconds later, a bell clanged, and Malfoy stepped into the shop.” (50)

“‘Ah, the Hand of Glory!’ said Mr. Borgin, abandoning Mr. Malfoy’s list and scurrying over to Draco. ‘Insert a candle and it gives light only to the holder! Best friend of thieves and plunderers! Your son has fine taste, sir.'” (52)

“Draco paused to examine a long coil of hangman’s rope and to read, smirking, the card propped on a magnificent necklace of opals, Caution: Do Not Touch. Cursed — Has Claimed the Lives of Nineteen Muggle Owners to Date.” (52)

“That Vanishing Cabinet was extremely valuable!” (128)

I mean these are all from one damn shop! We even know that there are a pair of cabinets and holy shit do they come back with a bang in a later book.

What I noticed most about this re-read in my early 30s than the last time I read it in my mid 20s was how young Harry, Hermione and Ron are. When the book starts Harry turns 12 and when you look back at all the crap he’s had to deal with since joining the Wizarding World at age 11 and what happens in this book it’s like WTF is wrong with this world and the adults running it?! We know the Ministry of Magic is full of idiots because of what happens, but really how sane are the rest of them, especially Dumbledore, Sirius, Lupin, et al., who just let Harry try his best to defeat Voldemort year-after-year?

The other thing that hit me about how young Harry is in this novel was this tweet I stumbled across (someone in my feed retweeted it I think. (There’s a TL;DR four paragraphs down.)

For some reason this tweet pissed me off to no end. I get that whoever tweeted it is making a comment about Rowling’s politics, but I’m like let’s look at this from a different perspective—you know from the perspective of an 11/12 year old boy who has NEVER had spending money, been neglected and abused for over a decade, and who has never received a bit of charity in his life.

“Harry enjoyed the breakneck journey down to the Weasleys’ vault, but felt dreadful, far worse than he had in Knockturn Alley, when it was opened. There was a very small pile of silver Sickles inside, and just one gold Galleon.”(57)

How many 11-18 year olds (let’s not forget that’s how old Harry is through the series) do you personally know that would willingly split the only wealth they’ve ever known after that type of traumatic childhood and adolescence that keeps getting worse, with a family they’ve just met? I don’t personally know a single one. I know there are young people who are inspired to do things like this, but again think about it, most of them are using crowdsourcing and other people’s wealth/generosity to do this, not their own personal wealth. And let’s talk about Rowling’s politics, as far as I’m concerned, she’s not going out of her way to discriminate against anyone, she rarely steps into the political fray (she has more and more since Brexit), and she puts her money where her mouth is. She’s donated over $160 million to charities and fell off the richest people list because of it (sort of – Snopes link).

TL;DR: she wrote a realistic scenario of a traumatized kid/teen hoarding the first worldly possessions/money he’s ever had and what the hell do her politics matter when it comes to her fictional characters?

The parts that I am enjoying the most about the re-reads and that I’ve always missed from the movies are the minor characters. Rowling built this crazy world and filled it with the most fascinating people, creatures, and places and the films could barely touch on maybe 50% of them. Seriously, if you’ve never read the books just read them for Peeves:

“Peeves was the school poltergeist, a grinning, airborne menace who lived to cause havoc and distress. Harry didn’t much like Peeves, but couldn’t help feeling grateful for his timing. Hopefully, whatever Peeves had done (and it sounded as though he’d wrecked something very big this time) would distract Filch from Harry.” (126)

His interactions with the various characters from McGonagle and Lupin to the Bloody Baron and Harry are hilarious and the pranks he pulls give the Weasley twins a run for their money! There are also other little one-off comments about minor characters that add so much meaning and depth to the main characters that you miss out on if you’ve only watched the films.

Recommendation: I definitely recommend reading these. Whether it’s your first read or your fiftieth you’ll find something that you didn’t know was there before. Rowling has created a world which continues to grow and expand. From the addition of The Cursed Child (meh) to the wonderful Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, it’s not the main characters that we’ll learn more about, it’s the minor characters that are mentioned in passing that are taking the realm of the Wizarding World. I mean look at Newt Scamander (he wrote the book mentioned in the series) and now Nicolas Flamel in the newest trailer, OMG yes!

Opening Line: “Not for the first time, an argument had broken out over breakfast at number four, Privet Drive.”

Closing Line: And together they walked back through the gateway to the Muggle world.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)

Additional Quotes from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
“Ever since Harry had come home for the summer holidays, Uncle Vernon had been treating him like a bomb that might go off at any moment, because Harry Potter wasn’t a normal boy. As a matter of fact, he was as not normal as it is possible to be.” (3)

“Harry had heard these rumors about Malfoy’s family before, and they didn’t surprise him at all. Malfoy made Dudley Dursley look like a kind, thoughtful, and sensitive boy.” (29)

“Mrs. Weasley was marching across the yard, scattering chickens, and for a short, plump, kind-faced woman, it was remarkable how much she looked like a saber-toothed tiger.” (32)

“It was a voice, a voice to chill the bone marrow, a voice of breathtaking, ice-cold venom.” (120)

“You all know, of course, that Hogwarts was founded over a thousand years ago — the precise date is uncertain — by the four greatest witches and wizards of the age. The four school Houses are named after them: Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Salazar Slytherin. They built this castle together, far from prying Muggle eyes, for it was an age when magic was feared by common people, and witches and wizards suffered much persecution.” (150)

“Slytherin, according to the legend, sealed the Chamber of Secrets so that none would be able to open it until his own true heir arrived at the school. The heir alone would be able to unseal the Chamber of Secrets, unleash the horror within, and use it to purge the school of all who were unworthy to study magic.” (151)

“‘Well, if you two are going to chicken out, fine,’ she said. There were bright pink patches on her cheeks and her eyes were brighter than usual. ‘I don’t want to break rules, you know. I think threatening Muggle-borns is far worse than brewing up a difficult potion. But if you don’t want to find out if it’s Malfoy, I’ll go straight to Madam Pince now and hand the book back in —’ ‘I never thought I’d see the day when you’d be persuading us to break rules,’ said Ron. ‘All right, we’ll do it. But not toenails, okay?’ (165)

“Harry smiled feebly. Deliberately causing mayhem in Snape’s Potions class was about as safe as poking a sleeping dragon in the eye.” (186)

“‘Because that’s what Hermione does,’ said Ron, shrugging. ‘When in doubt, go to the library.’ (255)

“He disappeared after leaving the school . . . traveled far and wide . . . sank so deeply into the Dark Arts, consorted with the very worst of our kind, underwent so many dangerous, magical transformations, that when he resurfaced as Lord Voldemort, he was barely recognizable. Hardly anyone connected Lord Voldemort with the clever, handsome boy who was once Head Boy here.” (329)

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” (333)

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4 thoughts on “Book 564: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2) – J.K. Rowling”

  1. I’ve always had pretty middle-of-the-road feelings for this one too. And I did really notice on my re-read how much Rowling is a Checkov’s Gun kind of author! Everything is significant and I like that. There’s something neat and comforting about it and I do like these as a comfort read 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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