Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Half Blood Prince & The Deathly Hallows

I haven’t done much reading lately. I started reading a book while I was in Los Angeles in May and I wasn’t enjoying it.

 

After getting home, by the time I finally got around to starting to read again, it was three weeks later. I just wanted to read something that wasn’t going to test me, something that I knew I would enjoy.

 

So, I settled down to read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Last summer I started re-reading the series, ready for my trip to see the stage-play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in October this year, and I have been periodically dipping into it since last June.

 

When I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire I wrote that it was the book in the series that really opened up the wider wizarding world. I also spoke about how annoying Harry was as he started to go through puberty.

 

In Phoenix, Harry is still kind of annoying, but his anger here doesn’t feel out of place. He went through a lot during Goblet and so it feels completely justified. His arrogance is still present, particularly in his refusal to fully embrace the Occlumency levels, but equally Dumbledore is frustrating, in his absence, in his reluctance to share things with Harry.

 

The beginning of the book, as you might imagine following the events at the end of the previous book, is pretty bleak, and Rowling seems to know it. There’s a line about a third of the way through where Hermione is looking out of the window and says ‘here’s something that should cheer you up. Hagrid’s back’.

 

And though not my favourite character, my heart did lift at that moment. And I remember my heart lifting the first time I read it as well. Perhaps because of the absence of Dumbledore and the in-fighting between Harry, Hermione and Ron anything familiar is a welcoming sight.

 

Books 1 to 5 of the Harry Potter series are probably some of the books I am most familiar with. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows less so, mostly because I was eighteen and twenty respectfully when they came out. There was simply less opportunity for me to re-read the books when I became an ‘adult’.

 

So, reaching the end of Phoenix, I had to go into Prince and Hallows straight away to find out not what happened, but to remind myself how it happened. I read all three across the space of three weeks and it felt so good to be reading books that I enjoyed again, looking forward to picking up my book at the end of the day and not wanting to put it down.

 

I even woke up in the middle of the night worrying about Harry and Hermione while I was reading Deathly Hallows.

 

The last three books work so well together, like one huge book rather than just three big ones. They flow into each other well and Harry matures nicely into a character that you actually like, a great achievement for a character that comes close to being the worst character in the series during book four and five.

 

The last book neatly sews up pretty much every loose thread that had been left dangling from the previous six, even ones you didn’t know were loose. Every minor character gets a moment to shine, a shining example being Hermione saving Lavender Brown from Fenrir Greyback.

 

It’s a small moment, but the previous year, their relationship had been left frosty after Lavender went out with Ron, and Rowling doesn’t forget, she tidies it up, even with a small as interaction like that.

 

And yes… I cried at the end. It’s impossible not to.

 

For those wondering:

 

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix scores 4.1 out of 5 (same as Goblet of Fire)

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince scores 4.5 out of 5

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows scores 4.6 out of 5

 

What lets Deathly Hallows down? It’s *not* quite as funny as the previous books, and if I’m completely honest the epilogue set nineteen years later… I could do without. Nearly ten years after first reading it, I feel slightly better about it as a precursor to The Cursed Child but it still feels like a bit of a mis-step to me.

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A(nother) Absolutely Fabulous Rambling

My sister decided yesterday that she’s missed my Sunday morning blog posts. For those of you that hadn’t clocked, since the beginning of the year I’ve been posting a chapter of my novel a week at a time – my sister being my one avid reader. If you’d like to catch up you can read it HERE.

 

She’s decided to start giving me a subject each week, so that she has something to read every Sunday morning. Her first prompt is ‘Inspiring Women’.

 

Quite what she’s expecting from that prompt I don’t know. Firstly, she set the prompt at 4:48 on a Saturday afternoon, which doesn’t leave an awful lot of time to weave my straw thoughts into a piece of literary gold, but gosh darn it, I’ll try.

 

I don’t know if she wants me to write something that will inspire women, or wants me to write about some women who are inspiring. Maybe she wants me to write about her.

 

Well, she can go whistle.

 

Instead, I’m going to do what any good writer does when they’re given a topic to write about it, twist it around so they can write about something else entirely instead. Perhaps even something they were going to write about anyway.

 

Tonight I took myself off to the cinema to see the new Absolutely Fabulous film. I went with my friends Scoop – named so because of once accidentally scooping her own eye – and Dan – named so because that’s his name.

 

As an aside, it was only as I made my way to the cinema that I realised that after a few heavy drinks and a bit of a squint that short ginger Scoop and tall, blonde bouffanted Dan could probably pass for a bad Eddie and Patsy tribute act. Which then led me to worry that I might be mistaken for either Saffy or Mother.

 

It’s been four years since we last had some new Ab Fab, an Olympics special, which some felt had lost some of the magic of the earlier series. I still loved it.

 

But it did set us all up to be slightly nervous going into the release of this film that it might all be a little bit shit.

 

So, as the first scenes of the film roll out like Eddie out of a taxi, repeating a classic joke from the series, I did start to panic. However, soon the new jokes started coming and the ridiculous plot that you’d expect from an episode of Ab Fab kicked into gear.

 

The jokes themselves are comfortable, there are no huge belly laughs, and even the funniest jokes on paper likely don’t quite stack up, but it’s the performances by Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley specifically that as always steal the screen.

 

Lumley repeating the word “Gabon” while Saunders and Julia Sawahla look on completely dumbfounded is likely to be the film’s most memorable moment, but there are plenty of other moments during the film where we and others in the theatre laughed loudly – even if I don’t really remember them now.

 

There are many celebrity cameos all the way through the film – so many that the end credits lists ninety percent of the character names as either ‘Herself’ or ‘Himself’ – but my favourites are Joan Collins and Rebel Wilson. Though Gwedoline Christie, appearing albeit briefly, manages to make more of an impression here than she does in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

 

The film is essentially an extended episode of the TV series, the plot isn’t necessarily strong enough to hold a film, but the characters like the jokes are comfortable, and everything is reset nicely at the end of the film.

 

I saw someone on Twitter mention that seeing the film was like meeting up with some friends you haven’t seen in a few years – everyone has a good time, but largely because of the good times that everyone shared in years past, not because this latest night out was particularly legen-wait-for-it-dary.

 

Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone are exactly as you remember them from twenty-five years ago, they are out having fun, being horrendously offensive and generally doing what they want to do and not giving a shit.

 

These are women who at sixty (Eddie) and twenty-one (Patsy) are not letting their age or gender or anything else stop them.

 

If they aren’t inspiring women, I don’t know who are.