I know, I know. Why the hell am I only getting round to reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the year 2016 when it released in 1997? First of all, it’s better late than never. Second of all, I adore the film franchise but I’ve never read the books. And thirdly, I was born in 1996, so I was raised on Darren Shan. Nonetheless, Harry Potter is special to me so I needed to finally read the books and so I have.
It is very difficult, as someone familiar with the big screen adaptation before the source material itself, to separate what I saw as a child at the cinema and what I’m reading now. Having said that, the book is so vibrant, gleefully British and fun that it completely sweeps you away. If anything, the book makes the feature film adaptation that much better as the two are so closely entwined and similar. They play off each other rather than play against each other.
But enough of the comparisons, this book stood on its’ own long before the films ever released and that’s how it should be judged. Truthfully, I had a lot of fun with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Its mystery is well crafted and effortlessly dropped throughout the narrative. But the best aspect of the mystery is that it exists at all.
For a shorter novel that kicks of a series like this, an author can often get lost in crafting the world and revealing the lore. But J.K. Rowling makes an expert decision from the get-go: she tells the story with very childlike eyes. Essentially, the narration and the core characters are all on the same page as us: they’re all learning with us. And yes we have characters like Hermione that know pretty much everything and Ron who knows the odd thing here and there but there’s always Harry. Harry, like us, has been thrust into this world from obscurity and normalcy and we share that ride with him. It really is a genius way to start a story and craft your hero for the series.
I can sit hear and say that the book is filled with tropes – because it is – but that would overlook the best aspects of this journey. So yes Harry Potter’s story does follow that gold old ‘Chosen One’ trend but Harry never feels like a chosen one. He’s such a bumbling idiot that characters surrounding him like Hermione and even Ron seem more adept than him at times. Hell, even Neville eventually wins the House Cup for Gryffindor albeit with a lot of help from our three heroes.
We can even call the bait-and-switch with Snape and Quirrel a trope of mystery story-telling but distracting us with fun world-builders like the invisibility cloak, Quidditch or even the forest makes this an engulfing and magical adventure.
It is no wonder that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone grabbed the imagination of every young mind in the world when it was released, let alone in Britain. It is a gloriously crafted story that you can tell was written by someone that has already lived and loved this wizarding world. It feels like we’ve been allowed to peak at someone’s cherished baby and I can’t wait to dive into the rest of the story.