Thursday, July 26, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Having finished the final Harry Potter novel, I find that most people instead of asking, "did you like it," ask "were you satisfied." Now rarely would anyone evaluating a novel say, "Well, it satisfied me," as opposed to "I liked it," but in this case, it's entirely appropriate. (I was satisfied and I did like it, by the way). Because, at this point, one loves Harry or one doesn't, (presumably if you read the seventh novel already, you're on the side of love) and for that final book readers weren't asking Rowling to increase their love but just hoping that she wouldn't break the spell. To be unsatisfied would mean that Rowling had ended with developments that felt false, contrived--either faking us into tragedy or faking us into happiness--and the whole magic world we've all been living in for the past eight years would have dimmed. But I'll just say I was satisfied. (I also want to say that it gives me great pleasure to have witnessed the Harry Potter phenomenon in real time--having to wait years to bring the story to an end only added to the fun of it--my heart was literally racing as I cracked the cover of Book Seven).

In recent weeks, I spent some time rereading past Harry Potters and more than ever, I admired the way that Rowling brought characters into the series early on and then picked them up and developed them in later books. She's always maintained that she had the whole thing planned from the beginning, but I'm going to guess that it was only the larger strokes that were definite (and those strokes were the points that I was sure of from the start regarding certain characters who shall not be named), but other things she has to have developed as she progressed. And I strongly suspect that rather than always looking forward and planting characters she would need later, she instead looked back and when she needed a character (say a slightly sketchy member of the Order of the Phoenix) she would look back to who she had created in earlier books (ah Mundungus Fletcher will work). But that seems to have been true mainly for smaller characters and smaller points. What seems quite clear in rereading is that she never put a book to press without knowing how the next book would go. So a vital character of Goblet of Fire (Cedric Diggory) is introduced one book earlier (he beats Harry at Quidditch) or the mysterious R.A.B. at the end of Half-Blood Prince is actually introduced in Order of the Phoenix (that one I figured out for myself, so I don't think I'm giving too much away). I've never thought about writing a trilogy let alone a seven book series (I'd be pretty happy to be a one-book-wonder), but if ever I did, it was a useful revelation to understand that you need to plan one book ahead, so that you've put what you need for the next book into the current one... that's how you are able to write an end that will satisfy.


angelle said...

i was immensely satisfied with book 7. a question that's been nagging at me though - what were the 7 horcruxes? i counted 8 by the end of the book, which means that one of them is wrong...

Ayse Papatya Bucak said...

I had that same thought about the number of Horcruxes--and my only explanation is that Voldemort made the diary, locket, ring, diadem, cup, snake and counted himself as number seven. But he didn't realize he had made a horcrux of the eighth thing (you know the one). So he thought he was splitting himself into seven, but actually split himself into eight.