I have this afternoon finished the final installment in the Harry Potter series. I have spent the last seven weeks with Harry Potter, from Book 1 to Book 7. Honestly, while I’m glad I read the books and am interested to have conversation about the series, I feel a weight lifted, having closed the cover on the last book. Free at last.
*****I think Ned may be the only one here who has not read the whole series, but I want to at least put up a warning here that I will talk about particular plot details. So, in case you want to discover the books further for yourself, please don’t read further. I get the sense that Ned doesn’t care much, but I thought I should give proper warning.*****
I was disappointed in Book 7, actually. Nothing, in the end, felt that surprising about it, and it feels more like an inevitable conclusion rather than a riveting, surprise-laden finale. Sure, I was surprised that certain more minor characters died–Hedwig, Mad-Eye, Dobby, Fred, Lupin, and Tonks–but they felt sort of inconsequential, compared to how much fretting is done over Cedric Diggory, for instance. Sure, I thought maybe Hagrid would die, and he didn’t. But I felt the larger plot pieces–Harry having a piece of Voldemort within him as a Horcrux, Snape turning out to be doing Dumbledore’s bidding all the while, Snape being in love with Harry’s mother, Ron and Hermione finally getting together, etc.–were all in the realm of the predictable, and were all things I had entertained at some point in the series previously (certainly by Book 6). And I agree with Toby, in a different posting, that there is a serious lull in the book, while Harry, Hermione, and Ron go camping around various woods and locations pretty aimlessly–which confirms again for me that at least 200 pages could have been trimmed from the book. I would say that is true for Books 4 through 7, with the possible exception of Book 6, which could probably be trimmed 100 pages.
I did like the opening of The Deathly Hallows and did like the last 150 pages or so, when things moved forward at the pace the finale deserves. The Epilogue was perhaps the most predictable part of the book, and frankly, the Epilogue really took away the sense that evil, as part of the world, endures, which I think is a disappointing move, though I understand the pull toward having a shiny, happy ending: “All was well.” But that does feel like it pulls the seriousness out from under the whole series, in some ways.
Christopher Hitchens has an interesting review of Book 7 in today’s New York Times Book Review, and I believe you can read it online, if you haven’t already.
Looking over the whole series, there are some terrific things about the books–particularly Books 3 and 6. There are some imaginative, ingenious devices, and some thematic territories that I think are valuable for young people to explore. But I’m glad the series is over, and I hope Rowling will let it stay finished. The cleverness wore out over seven books, and for all the build up over making Voldemort into a villain with a complicated, disturbing, and interesting past, he came out in the end as another comic book villain with a lot of bluster but with the classic cardboard faulty arrogance that makes him lose control of his power. I lost it and it lost all credibility when 1) Mrs Weasley yells out to Beatrix LeStrange in all capitals: “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!” and that is followed on the next page by 2) Voldemort, alone with no other Death Eaters or allies, preparing to duel Harry, just back from the dead and surrounded by several Hogwarts professors and members of the Order of the Phoenix, and Harry then literally says “I don’t want anyone else to try to help. It’s got to be like this. It’s got to be me.” And then that is followed by six pages of goading talk between the two of them, while we assume everyone else is just watching this happen. I mean, that is just as schmaltzy and uninspired as it gets, for any reader of any age. In other words, the build up to everything seems far more interesting than the actual final installment.
But, J.E. had mentioned in an earlier post that Book 7 “doesn’t disappoint,” or something to that effect, and Toby put Book 7 right up there with Books 3 and 6 as his favorites. So I’d love to hear other reactions, and would love to be convinced.