Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

There’s something about time travel, that I struggle to resist.

A good time-travel story is like a farce – in fact, I’m specifically thinking of an episode of Frasier named The Ski Lodge, which sees the characters going skiing for the weekend.

Both Frasier and Niles are hoping to get their end away, and the girls they’re with as well as the handsome gay ski instructor are all hoping for the same. The sad thing is that none of them want to sleep with the one who wants to sleep with them.

The episode works for two reasons. The first, a setting designed to allow the story to take place without hinder it (a large ski lodge with three bedrooms and interconnecting doors) and tight plotting, which results not in a flat sitcom performance, but a well choreographed dance.

The best time travel plots have to be like that as well. They contain plots that revisit the same scenes over and over again, viewed from a slightly different perspective, with the added danger of the characters running into a future or past version of themselves.

The plotting has to be tight and the setting has to be established, or else you risk running up with a mess.

That is exactly what you get in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – which before re-reading it I would have said was probably my favourite instalment of the Harry Potter series.

Now, having re-read it, I can tell you, it IS my favourite. The whole novel, short though it may be in comparison to the subsequent books, spends its time building up to the climax, the moment that begins at the point where Hermione, complete with a melodramatic lip tremble (I imagine) informs the boys that Hagrid lost the appeal for his Hippogriff Buckbeak.

From there, Rowling barrels through plot twists and developments that she’s had simmering along nicely, some since the first and second books, with a wonderful time travel section that I just adore.

However, my favourite part of the book, and maybe my favourite part of the series comes early on. Shortly after escaping the Dursleys and being put up in the Leaky Cauldron, Harry spends his last two weeks of the summer holidays in Diagon Alley.

It seems to me, that when Harry was looking for his happy memory in order to conjure his Patronus, he should have looked to that sunny fortnight in London. It’s the first moment of the series where we truly get a sense of Harry being happy, he is carefree and without responsibility.

In retrospect, it’s also the last time before the end of the series where it feels Harry experiences happiness, a true care-free time. It could be argued that his trip to the Quidditch World Cup (pre the Death Eaters arrival) in Goblet of Fire is a happy time for Harry, but it struck me as I was reading this chapter, how tense he seems to be when with his friends.

He always seems to have a responsibility to his friends, to be the middle-man in the sniping between Ron and Hermione. To downplay parts of himself to make them both feel more comfortable – one of the biggest recurring themes in the books is Harry feeling uncomfortable at having money when Ron doesn’t.

During his ‘holiday’ in Diagon Alley, the biggest worry Harry has is that his hair won’t stay flat. This wonderful little bubble only bursts when Ron and Hermione descend on the Leaky Cauldron.

The Prisoner of Azkaban is a turning point for the series. It marks the end of Harry’s more innocent years, but also fires the starting pistol for the rest of the series. It’s clear from the end of this book that the series is only going to get darker and more epic.

It’s no wonder that the Harry Potter hype that was starting to sweep the world really took hold after the release of Azkaban, it’s probably JK Rowling’s finest piece.

Two To Go

The last time I wrote a rambling was back in August, I talked about how I’d sent Memories of a Murder out to six different agents – three of whom rejected it with astonishing speed.

I talked about what I might do if none of them liked it, and that I wasn’t so sure. The immediate answer, the obvious answer perhaps, was to not give up. To keep trying.

But here’s why that’s maybe not the obvious answer. In the time between that post and this, I’ve read five wonderful books, reviewed six of them, started a seventh and… I’ve worked.

Jeepers have I worked. It’s that time of year for me where work goes from working-an-hour-late-busy to weeping-in-the-corner busy. And my assistant has left me.

Woe. Is. Me.

But also in that time, my lodger has moved out and got his own place. I’ve had time in abundance to ‘do writing’ something which I never had before. What did I do with that time?

Naturally, I finished watching my Cheers box-set. Never like to leave a project unfinished.

Then I started watching Frasier from the beginning. Also, catching up on Revenge which has been sitting my Sky box since January.

I’ve logged on and read emails. I’ve bought some lovely new jars for my kitchen.

I’ve gone out for drinks and dinners. I’ve made three lasagnas – from scratch (well, the cow was already minced, but more or less).

I’ve not done writing. And for one very simple reason. I’m just not wired to.

I’m not a brilliant multi-tasker (I am a man after all), my head can deal with one project at a time. Even if one of those projects has stalled, I have to see it through before I can move on to the next one.

Take my kitchen. Well, don’t, I only just had it put in, but two years ago, I decided that the flat needed redoing from left to right (top to bottom, doesn’t seem like the right phrase when it’s only one floor).

Bit by bit, one room at a time, I’ve been doing it and in March/April time I decided on my new kitchen. In my head, on my list of things to do, was do the kitchen, then repaint my bedroom.

The kitchen wasn’t installed until July, but in the three months preceding that I couldn’t paint my bedroom, even though neither was dependent on the other, simply because I had not crossed ‘new kitchen’ off my list.

I’m methodical. Step A leads to Step B leads to Step C. I can’t go from A to C without having fully finished B.

The problem is, the writing I’ve been focused on is the sequel to Memories of a Murder. I’ve only heard back now, from four of the six agents I contacted.

How can I possibly start writing more on that world when I haven’t heard back from all those people that I sent a request for a rejection to?

What I can do, though, is figure out what I’m going to do next. Keep trying isn’t the option for me – at this time – it stalls me too much.

But I can start a new project while this one’s bubbling under… watch this space.