Finally Reading HP: I've Opened the Chamber of Secrets
"I don't know what happens at the end of Harry Potter."
Do you ever wonder how many people can still say that in 2017, going on 10 years since the release of the seventh and final book of J.K. Rowling's magical series — not to mention six years since the premiere of the final installment of the film franchise? I can't imagine there are too many of them left.
As you might have guessed, I am one of those rare birds. After all this time, I still don't know what the final chapter of Harry Potter's story holds — who lives, who dies, who goes down in wizardry and witchcraft history once all is said and done.
I've seen seven of the eight films, all except "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2." And now I'm committing myself to read the complete series before watching that final installment, starting with "Chamber of Secrets" (as if the title of this post wasn't a dead giveaway). Why there? Well, because I read "Sorcerer's Stone" — or "Philosopher's Stone," if you prefer — when I was in fifth grade, and we're just going to let that be that.
Perhaps inspired by the recent release of "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," or perhaps because it was just time for me to finally get around to it, I've started my magical journey into Harry's world as our collective page has turned to 2017. I suspect it won't take long.
THREE HOURS LATER...
Oh, would you look at that? (Would you just look at it?) I've finished reading "Chamber of Secrets," Tom Riddle's diary be damned. And it was... pretty good, I'd say. Or maybe more than that; it kept me going, turning pages, and that's something to be said.
How about some good things first? The book version of Professor Gilderoy Lockhart was certainly a delight, as is his film-self, played by Kenneth Branagh. I liked the amount of dialogue Rowling gave him in the novel; it really allowed the character's pompousness to be fully borne out, and that was fun to read.
Something similar could be said for the amount of dialogue Tom Riddle was allowed to spew — and spew he did, as his little villainous self. Ginny Weasley's involvement in the primary plot seemed to be better fleshed out in the book, and that was thanks mostly to Tom's generous explanations of his evil-doing — a signature cliché of bad guys in movies and fiction writing that I thought Rowling was able to use to her advantage, enlightening the reader with important information, as opposed to having him drone on for no apparent purpose other than to toot his own horn.
There were other positive takeaways, obviously, but allow me to indulge my literary critic over the next few paragraphs.
Honestly, when it came to the action sequences, such as Harry and Ron's encounter with Aragog and all of his eight-legged children in the Forbidden Forest, or when Harry faced off with the legendary Basilisk in Salazar Slytherin's underground hideaway, I was left wanting a little more. Those kinds of things seemed to come up and breeze right by, making me wish Rowling had spent a little more time playing them out or detailing them up.
But maybe I only say this because I know how the film version of "Chamber of Secrets" dealt with those dramatic moments (in dramatic fashion, you might say), and I expected Rowling's words to paint much the same picture. Whereas book-Harry wasted no time piercing Godric Gryffindor's sword through the Basilisk's gaping mouth, film-Harry had a bit rougher go of things, sneaking around the Chamber's various tunnels and distracting the snake-like monster by throwing stones here and there before ultimately dealing the fatal blow.
Such are the machinations of film — and do forgive me for sounding all college-essay-y right now; I simply don't know what's the matter with me at the moment — and perhaps Rowling's succinct way of portraying the scene in the novel was the best approach, without adding what could be seen as frilly flare. One caveat I'd have to add: writing out action scenes can be tricky and she performed admirably in that respect.
One other nit-picky item that bears mention is the ending of "Chamber of Secrets."
Yes, we know. Dobby is a free elf, and that's all fine and dandy. But things generally seemed to come to a close with stark abruptness. It was like: Harry saved the day, everyone was happy, and then they went home. Fin. Similar to the action scenes mentioned earlier, the ending, in my opinion, was handled with less tact than it could have been. To be plain: I felt like I was being rushed out the door as the novel finished.
On my punishing scale of 1 through 10, I'd assign "Chamber of Secrets" about a 7.5. Good, but not great.
When you really think about it though, J.K. Rowling is a billionaire, so who's the one that's really talking out of their behind here? (Hint: It's not her.)*
*Note: This is the first post in what I am dubbing my "Finally Reading HP" series, which will chronicle the journey of my virgin eyes through the entirety of J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" novels, with the exception of book numero uno, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."