Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K Rowling Book Review

There will be books written about Harry, every child in our world will know his name.’

This week it’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (or Sorecerer’s) Stone! This is by far my favourite series of all time, so I thought that I would share with you my thoughts and why I love it so much.

I could go on forever about how much of a Potterhead so much. I am obsessed, even to the point where in a few weeks, me and my best friend are getting Harry Potter tattoos! It’ll be Hermione’s wand with a scroll wrapped around it reading ‘I solemnly swear I am up to no good’, and my friend is getting the same except with ‘Mischief Managed’. Will post pictures after I’ve had it done!

Oddly enough, this was not the first Harry Potter book that I read. I first read Goblet of Fire thinking that since I’d seen the first three films I would not need to read the books. Silly me. I eventually caught up and have since read the full series more than once. My copy of the book is so old and battered. There are pages falling out, there’s marks all over the text, it’s all dog eared. But that says to me that the book is well loved and very well read.

We are all familiar with the story, but for those who aren’t (there must be about five of you left by now), it’s about a boy called Harry Potter. After being orphaned and spending 11 horrible years with his Aunt and Uncle and his cousin Dudley, he finds out that he’s a wizard and gets whisked away to a school for witches and wizards. A mysterious object, the Philosopher’s Stone, lies within the school and the famous dark wizard Lord Voldemort who killed Harry’s parents, wants to get it so he can regain his power.

I am heavily biased so I will try and write this as objectively as I can.

The book reads definitely like a children’s book, because after all that’s what they are, children’s books. Rowling takes you through the wizarding world slowly and carefully so you don’t miss a thing. Everything is simple and easy to understand, no storyline is too complicated. I do think the book would not have nearly been as successful if Harry had been brought up as a wizard. He lived away from magic for 11 years and gets thrown into this other world. Since the readers grew up as Muggles, we can relate to him. We also feel overwhelmed by this new world we didn’t know existed and we can to explore it with new eyes like Harry. Had he lived with wizards, everything would seem normal and commonplace and we wouldn’t be able to appreciate it as well.

As a stand alone book, it certainly is amazing. You are shown enough of the magic world to be absolutely amazed, but little enough so that you want more. As a part of the series, Rowling did well to start it how she did. She covers all bases in terms of a basic knowledge of the wizarding world. We go to Diagon Alley, we explore Hogwarts a bit and we get to play Quidditch. We don’t need any more than that for a first book.

I feel like I can’t write this review without addressing the issue that is Severus Snape. In a previous post, I likened his situation to that of Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights…

Snape is Heathcliff, even in his cold manner, who is then rejected by the woman that he loves Lily/Catherine, she goes on to marry someone else James/Edgar, and then she dies causing Snape/Heathcliff to resent Lily’s/Catherine’s only child Harry/Cathy as they serve as a constant reminder of their lost love.’

Those who have read the books or seen the films know the truth. Snape loves Lily (‘Always.’) and in his youth was bullied by James. You can only imagine how he would feel when their child, who looks exactly like James but with Lily’s eyes (we are never allowed to forget that are we!), rocks up at the school. I almost found myself trying to rationalise Snape’s behaviour, especially toward Harry. Now I know more, Snape doesn’t seem harsh or mean. He tries to protect this child who is constantly breaking rules and finding trouble. You can’t help but be bitter toward a boy you’re trying to keep safe who seems to have a death wish.

Harry, Ron and Hermione spend the books, and the majority of the series, thinking that Snape’s the bad guy. Harry’s broom gets cursed? It was Snape. Someone let a troll in? It was Snape. Someone’s trying to steal the Philosopher’s Stone? It’s Snape. We all know now that they were wrong, but when you’re an 11 year old and bad things are happening at your school, you are going to suspect the shady character, i.e. Snape. Plus, they have no knowledge of Snape’s history or why he would have any reason to protect Harry.

Snape was never as bad as Harry thought, he just didn’t like Harry because he was the son of the man who spent his years at Hogwarts bullying him, but felt he had to protect him because he loves his mother. Not to mention that James saved Snape’s life, which is something that apparently he couldn’t forgive.

Time for book vs film! I will be comparing the book to the 2001 adaption of the book, with Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, directed by Chris Colombus. We’ve all seen this, we all know what the game is.

They did very well in putting this book on screen. I feel like the film encapsulates the magic a lot better than the book does. Actually seeing Diagon Alley and Hogwarts on a screen with the perfect score is a lot better than just seeing it in your imagination. The film gives you enough of the story to follow what’s happening, but the book gives you more of an in-depth look at the whole world.

The casting is perfect and I’m saying no more on that. However, I’m not sure if this was intentional but all of the characters are a little diluted. We all know Hermione’s a know-it-all but they made her less so in the films. It’s the same with everyone. The books have the characters in their pure concentrated form and it’s like the films have taken away bits of them. I imagine it was so to not alienate people as the strong characters may not have worked on screen.

So who wins this round? Film!

Next week I’ll be reading some horror and it’ll be Death Day by Shaun Hutson!

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