My sister, Jenny, and I are spending the summer revisiting the Harry Potter series, some of the most read and most anticipated books of our childhood. You can catch up with our thoughts on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (we read the British version), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, or just jump right in with us on book four.
Kim: So this one starts out with a bang, huh? I know there’s been violence in the stories up until now, but that opening scene with Frank Bryce, Volemort, Wormtail and Nagini is really gruesome. Did that surprise you? It surprised me.
I also want to talk about the Quidditch World Cup. I know there are some plot clues planted there about Mr. Crouch and Winky and Ludo Bagman, but overall I’m not sure what other purpose it served. This book is really, really long and it seems like that may have been an area for some trimming. Thoughts?
Jenny: It was more gruesome than I remembered, but I think that it is just as gruesome as some other parts of the later books. I think it may be the most physically gruesome but only because a lot of magical deaths have no physical damage associated with them like a snake eating you.
I would not want to see the Quidditch World Cup cut from the book or trimmed down. It was and still is one of my favorite parts to a Harry Potter book. I think that it is a fun way to introduce the full wizarding world to a reader. I think that having read all of the books once before that we know much more about the wizarding world so the introduction seems redundant and unimportant. But if you are reading these books for the first time or living it like Harry, the World Cup is your first real exposure to the wide world of wizarding. For me that makes it important above and beyond the set up of the Crouch, Winky and Ludo story. I know that this book is long, but I felt drawn into it again and seem to go by really fast for me. I think it is a great action packed story that I liked.
I want to know how you feel about all of the assistance that Harry received during the Triwizard Tournament? Do you think this changes the way Harry faces future challenges?
Kim: I guess I didn’t really feel bad or guilty about the help Harry got in the Tournament, in part because he’s had help along the way in all of his challenges. Ron and Hermione helped out with the puzzles in the first book, Fawkes helped in the Chamber of Secrets, and a whole host of people helped out in book three. As much as these books are about Harry, he often has a lot of help along the way. Ultimately he does have to take on Voldemort by himself, but he builds up to that through these earlier books.
Given that Harry was illegally entered in the Tournament (and cheating is a time-honored part of the event), I think it’s ok. Do you feel differently? And how did you feel about the end of the tournament and Cedric’s death? It didn’t hit me as much this time when I knew it was coming, but I remember being just shocked when he was killed the first time I read the book. It happens so fast.
Jenny: I agree with you about the help he received; none of these stories are really about Harry trying to be a hero by himself.
Oh Cedric. I remember the first time I cried for a long time. When I saw the movie I cried a bunch too. I think the lack of shock value in reading it may take away a little bit from his death and its emotional impact for me. But I still got a little teary eyed especially when his parents are mentioned after the fact. I think it is hard to get emotional about his death when you remove the surprise factor because we really do not know Cedric that well. Had he been a more prevalent character in previous books his death probably would have been more emotional on a second reading. Do you have a different opinion?
And I am going to let you have first go at Rita Skeeter!! What do you think of her?
Kim: The time I got most emotional about Cedric, now that I think about it more, was the very end of Dumbledore’s toast:
“Remember Cedric. Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort. Remember Cedric Diggory.”
I think that sets the stage for what is coming, that Voldemort will be responsible for killing innocent people that we care about and that there are going to be a lot of opportunities for the characters we care about to make tough choices. Yikes.
But, Rita Skeeter. I hate her. I might hate her more than I hate Dolores Umbrige (who is coming soon, boo!). I know that it’s really not productive to get all upset at a wizard journalist but man, does she give journalists a bad name with the lying and exaggerating and the pestering people. She’s just really horrible and I was so incredibly glad that Hermione figured her out in the end. I do sort of wish I had one of her magical quills though — that could make my job a lot easier.
Anything else you want to talk about? What are you excited or curious about as we head into book five, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix?
Jenny: I am excited for the story to pick up and start building towards the climax. I think book five really begins the story of the battle of good versus evil. Books one through four I see as introducing you to all of the players and really getting you invested and interested in what happens to them. Book five really begins the battle that will take three books to finish.
Kim: Same thing. I’m already into Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and it does feel like a lot of details are starting to pay off in a big way. I’m a little exhausted by Harry being nasty all the time, but we’ll talk about that soon.