Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy. He lives with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, who are mean to him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. (Dudley, however, has two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for all his toys and games.) Then Harry starts receiving mysterious letters and his life is changed forever. He is whisked away by a beetle-eyed giant of a man and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reason: Harry Potter is a wizard!
I’ve read this book a few of dozen times over the years. I’ve tried, each time, to figure out how to put into words my feelings on it. I fail every time. But here I am, trying once again. I’m going to try and speak of just this book in this review – so (beyond these few statements) I won’t touch on how incredibly built the series is. Each book is builds on the ones before it, widening and strengthening the world. There are foreshadowings and moments peppered throughout the series that sometimes don’t come into play for many books to come. As Harry grows and becomes more mature, so too do these books. It’s something that’s almost impossible to realize here, in the first one, and that I still appreciate each and every time I pick up this series.
When I first picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone I had no idea the impact it would have on my life. It was just a story, about a boy that finds out he’s a wizard and has to fight the forces of evil. That’s what I thought when I started it that first time.
Very quickly I was drawn into the world of magic that J.K. Rowling penned, surrounded by witches and wizards, magic, and muggles. When I try to examine my feelings for this (and all future books), I run into the problem of not being able to quantify what makes it so special.
The story is a classic; boy finds out he’s special, learns about world, fights evil, wins. The world is intricate and fun, with a lot of cleverness – plays on words, simple ciphers, and logic puzzles made me smile – while still being straightforward. The characters, though varied and three-dimensional, are fairly standard.
And yet, this all combines into this wonderful, fantastical world that pulls me in and makes me wonder what’s hiding behind that brick wall over there, or what I might be missing out of the corner of my eye.
I remember, distinctly, the feeling of sorrow that I had upon finishing this first book and realizing I was already too old to get a letter to Hogwarts. The world is so enchanting that I can’t help but want to be a part of it. It’s all about the feeling that it evokes in me. It makes me feel like there’s magic in the world, and it’s not necessarily the turn-a-mouse-into-a-snuff-box type of magic, or the type where the chess pieces actually fight each other (though, how awesome would that be?). It’s the type where friendship is stronger than anything that gets thrown at it. Where people, kids, can fight against injustice and wrong – and win. It lets you know that life isn’t always fair, and that you might have to battle against things that are scary and horrible, but the happiness at the end is always worth it.
And I suppose that’s what keeps me coming back, time and time again, to re-read, revisit, and relive this story. It makes me feel a part of something amazing.
And that is definitely magical.