Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series Harry Potter Books


Published: 1997
Author: J.K. Rowling

A magical new world – and the beginning of a legend


To begin with – a confession.  For the first two or three years the Harry Potter craze totally passed me by.  I had – of course – heard of the books and the backstory of Joanne Rowling, the single mum who created a phenomenon.  I wasn’t disinterested, just thought I’d get round to getting the books sooner or later.  And later was fine by me.

Then, in late December 2000, my cousin brought me a birthday present.  A box-set of the first three Potter novels.  She appeared at the door like one of the Wise Men with something more precious than gold, frankincense or myrrh.  She brought books.  Even then though I stayed pretty cool about the whole thing.  I don’t think I started reading them straight away.  There was still part of me that acknowledged that these were children’s books and I was too high and mighty to rush headlong into them.

When I did start reading though I fell in love with the magical (and muggle) world created by Rowling.

The story is well known by now but it’s still worth going back to the beginning.  A dark time in the wizarding world has ended.  Harry Potter, a baby, The Boy Who Lived, has defeated the darkest wizard who lived.  No-one knows how he survived the fight which killed his parents and thwarted Lord Voldemort.  For more than ten years Harry lives with his horrible muggle (non-magical) family, the Dursleys, unaware of his powers and his history in the wizarding world.  On Harry’s eleventh birthday he discovers that he is a wizard and will be attending Hogwarts, a school for young witches and wizards.  Here he learns about his new world, makes friends and enemies and faces Voldemort once again.

In the best tradition of children’s books there are hideous adults who try to foil our young hero, there are friends to be cherished, childish enemies to be defeated.  And there’s danger to be faced.

In some respects Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is nothing new.  It is, in many respects, a stereotypical boarding school romp.  Fans of Mallory Towers by Enid Blyton will certainly see a number of comparison but what elevates this to the realms of publishing legend is Rowling’s gift for character, dialogue and language.  We get to know our main characters quickly so vividly are they rendered.  In less than a page Professor Snape emerges fully formed as a horrid little man we will hate until the end of the series.  Rich language and new words like Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, Muggles and Quidditch create a new world that intrigues us.  But this new world is not beyond us as readers.  There is enough in the story that we recognise and keeps the magical world real to us.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the perfect children’s book.  Colourful, exciting and full of fun and adventure.  Part of me is sorry I didn’t read it sooner.  Having said that though if I had done so there would have been much longer to wait before reading the next book and I’m not sure I could have coped with that.

Previous and next posts in this series:Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets >>
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