on 28 January 2001
I was somewhat suspicious of the hype surrounding the Harry Potter books, but when I saw this book laying on our endtable I picked it up. I am a US college student with very little time, but I made time to finish all the currently available Potter books. It was well worth the effort. By the end of the first few chapters I was in love with Rowling's ideas, characters, writing, and message. Rowling has a style that would be conversational, but is cleaner and smoother. This gives her writing a sense of effortlessness perhaps only seen in children's books--a sense that I think many of us lose as we grow older. It also makes the books remarakably easy and enjoyable to read. By the end of five days I had finished off the first four books and was seriously considering rereading them.
I have recommended this book and all the subsequent books to everyone I know, of all ages. They are intelligent and imaginative without pretention or condescension, making them something everyone can appreciate and learn from. This series more than deserves the "hype" it has recieved, and will certainly far outlast it. I look forward to reading these books to my own children someday.
on 31 January 2013
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's stone
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's stone is a book about a boy called Harry and when he is a baby something terrible happened to his parents. This very evil wizard called Voldemort killed his mum and dad however he tried to kill Harry but somehow he could not. Therefore Harry had to go to live with his aunt and uncle. Eleven years later he had a letter saying he is invited to go to Hogwarts. Harry travelled there on a scarlet red steam engine. At Hogwarts Harry Ron and Hermione, Harry's friends, were caught out of school and their punishment was to collect unicorn blood from the dark woods. Then Harry and his friends go on a big adventure!
I think the book is very exciting! My favourite part is when Harry and his friends go on a very exciting adventure!
I think this book is suitable for eight and above. Eleven out of eleven people from Bancffosfelen school said they loved the book! My mark out of ten is nine!
By Sam Davies
on 8 February 2010
I don't give out five star ratings very often. In my view a book has to be simply excellent to warrant it - it has to be a book that I return to again and again. In my opinion, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone falls into this category. It isn't as though it's a perfect book - the writing is pretty ropey at times and the basic story is not dissimilar to others I have read - but it is a warm, entertaining, and very inventive read.
Who doesn't know the story by now? Harry Potter is on the cusp of his eleventh birthday, living with the beastly Dursleys, when he is visited by Rubeus Hagrid who informs Harry that he is a wizard. From here Harry goes to Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He finds out that he is famous, thanks to events that occurred when he was just a child and managed to defeat Voldemort (or He Who Must Not Be Named). In this first tale about Harry, we are swept into the world of wizardry and straight into a first-class mystery about the object being guarded by a three-headed dog...
So why do I love this book so much? Well, I can tell you why I don't love it! The plot is straight out of other books - who hasn't read about the orphan child who discovers hidden powers, and learns to use them in order to defeat evil? When have we not met a kindly elderly gentleman with long white hair and rather formidable magic skills? I can name a number of authors who have written about similar ideas, especially in the field of fantasy. Rowling is writing nothing original here, in terms of plot.
The reason why I was so taken by this lovely debut novel is the 'surroundings' to the plot. The world of Hogwarts and the fantastic little twists on familiar items that Rowling adds in are simply superb. Right from the first time we hear about chocolate frogs that can actually jump, and portraits which the subjects sometimes leave, I was hooked and felt that every little detail of the world was delightful.
Rowling also writes with great humour and an appreciation for the minds of children, and what would appeal to them. My favourite moment in this respect is when Harry and Ron are being held by the Devil's Weed and Hermione is fretting about not having wood for a fire when Ron yells "Have you gone mad? Are you a witch or not?" The relationship between the three main characters is written beautifully, from the way they defend each other to the bickering that breaks out amongst them.
In fact, all of the characters are very solid - it is easy to see this when people who have read the series pick out different favourites! I enjoyed the sarcasm and quiet menace of Snape, and was keen to find out more about the reasons why he hates Harry so much. McGonagall reminds me of my old English teacher (stern, but with a heart of gold underneath).
The writing is reminiscent of both Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. From the former, Rowling cherrypicks ideas from her various school stories (e.g. Malory Towers - castle-like school on a cliff, with four Houses, travel by train to get there). From the latter, she uses the sheer inventiveness and wit of taking common items or ideas and turning them on their heads. I have no objections to the hint of plagiarism since I love both authors and hence have taken this series to my heart as well.
Extremely good fun and a great way to encourage younger readers. Highly recommended.
on 1 July 2000
I laughed at my adult son when I found him reading Harry Potter. He said "don't knock it until you've tried it" and gave me the Philosopher's Stone for Christmas. I am now addicted and have bought and read them all.I am an avid reader of all types of literature but these are something else!
on 14 November 1998
I bought this book for my nephew but having heard how good it was I read it myself. I was not disappointed - it's an excellent read and one of the more original childrens' books I've read for some time.
In fact I enjoyed it so much I've just bought the new book and I can hardly wait for the next one. There is no age limit to enjoying good books!!
on 7 August 2015
I have reread the first Harry Potter novel for the first time in about 10 years in this latest edition issued by Bloomsbury. Bloomsbury UK has reissued all the HP novels in beautiful new hardcover editions with beautiful dust jacket art by Jonny Duddle. (You can still find some of these in their respective first printings, so try that instead of feeling you need to shell out £15,000 for a hardcover first edition of the original book.) These may be the best-looking of all the HP editions issued by Bloomsbury. Even the original covers for the US editions are not as good as these. But cover art aside, does Harry Potter stand up after a second go-through? Is the charm and excitement still there? After a second reading where I'm actually noticing more than I did the first time, I conclude, yes, Harry Potter and his adventures are still as charming as ever.
What is the charm of Harry Potter? How does Rowling make it seem so effortless? Rowling used several storytelling devices to achieve her literary goals. Of course, on the forefront, is Harry Potter himself, a kind of loser kid at first glance, being imprisoned by a family of overweight and pompous nincompoops who might make the likes of the McFly's (from the "Back to the Future" films) seem as highly cultured as the Windsors. When I first read the Harry Potter books in the early 2000's, I felt the Dursley's were so disgustingly over-the-top I thought it was the one weakness of the novels. However, upon rereading, I see what Rowling was doing. The magic of Harry Potter is that she offers all these little dilemmas which Harry has to overcome, the first is navigating and then eventually escaping the mad clutches of the Dursley's.
While, sure, the Dursley's are just about as crass a family as you'll ever read in children's literature, the Dursley's serve to keep pushing the story further. We know, of course, Harry will escape Vernon and Dudley but the narrative doesn't allow it to happen right away. Like a Beethoven symphony where we're waiting for the main theme to return in tutti fortissimo, we're waiting for Harry to overcome the Dursley's, and other similar situations which permeate much of the book, such as being placed into the right "house", learning the game of Quidditch, and the climactic ending where a kind of oversized chess match may mean life or death for Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione. And this is how the novel keeps us interested and desiring to read more. She doesn't offer the solutions and/or resolutions of the many dilemmas to end too quickly, and often the resolution is not exactly as expected but rather lead into the next problem. Only Rowling could dream up having the Dursley's move to a shack on an island just so Harry won't be able to receive copies of the letter inviting him to enroll at Hogwarts, School of Wizards and Wizardry. This is just one example of the many situations Harry faces during the course of the novel. In most books, especially children's books, there are maybe only one or two dilemmas a main character may face. Harry is constantly being pelted with them.
Another aspect of the story, nearly as important, is the wonderful details which Rowling gives her readers. When we enter Diagon Alley along with Harry, she describes not only the many shops, but little tiny vignettes about the many people wandering through this first taste of the "magic world" as opposed to the "muggle" world. (I wish I wasn't a muggle!) Shops, shopkeepers and shoppers are all going about their business and Rowling tells us about them with just enough flair and detail we're interested in what we're seeing but not too much for it to become overdone. We always come back to Harry and Hagrid and why they're walking through Diagon Alley, which rings of London's Charing Cross Road, known for its bookshops, and Portobello Road, famous for its many antique and unusual shops.
Harry Potter is almost a series of threaded vignettes which create a beautiful mosaic of storytelling at a phenomenal level. I have read few books of fantasy which have as much detail and depth as Harry Potter, with a bit of humour and a bit of darkness to keep the story well-balanced. J.R.R. Tolkien's the Hobbit comes to mind, as well as some of the Conan stories by Robert E. Howard. Rowling's Harry Potter books have just about everything: wonderful characters occupying an imagined world coupled with situations and plots to keep the reader interested in the seeming never-ending threads of story. On top of it, there is an underlying rhetorically theme.
Before he learns who he really is, Harry Potter views himself as a loser kid who has nothing to offer, except his "moments" which cause him to be punished at the hands of the Dursley's. As the novel progresses, we learn he's something special, and part of the growth of the character is for him and his readers to discover the essence of his specialness. All children, and adults for that matter, should know, there is something which makes them unique and special, and part of the point of Harry Potter is to find that uniqueness, no matter how much other people may say otherwise. This is the true magic of Harry Potter, brought to us by a wizard, name of J.K. Rowling.
on 16 January 2007
This is a review of the adult edition: I do not know how much it differs from the children's one.
After watching the first four movies I finally decided to have a look at the book to see things at their source, so to say, and found it satisfying.
The first point I wish to stress is that the first movie is a more than adequate rendering of the book: some of the plot has been changed but the atmosphere is just the same. Where he movie clearly surpasses the book itself is the visualisation: Ms Rowling has no outstandin talent for -or is just not interested in- the settings while the scenographers of the movie clearly have, plenty of... Hogwarts and the other minor locations, which are so very much alive and impressive in the movies, are rather dim in this first book.
As it is well known (this is the 500th reviews... no attempt at originality therefore) the author had the brilliant idea of mixing the depiction of a typical British institution that has already been source of inspiration for hundreds of works such as public schools with the love for magic and fantasy stories that was budding at the time.
Apart from this (a this that earned its author so many millions of pounds I cannot begin to think about) there is nothing outstanding in her book: the writing is neat, at times witty, the plot straightforward, characterization consistent, but there is no trace of genius in all these pages: we are not faced with a new Shakespeare nor with an irresistible entertainer: we have a clever story (clever, not honest: there are many cunning devices here) that flows unerringly to its end providing a fair amount of satisfaction.
An outright flaw is one I needed a little time to grasp: style inconsistency. It seems to me that Ms Rowling started writing with a children's story in mind but later her true inspiration, which is a much darker one, overtook her pen giving birth to gloomier paragraphs. I love dark fantasy, I really do, but this continuous shift between two different attitudes is not pleasing nor show a complete control of writing skills.
I am buying the following books to have more fun and hoping the author has improved in time.
on 9 July 2006
If reading this review, I assume you belong to three types of character. You are either
a) Wondering whether you should buy this book DESPITE the hype and want to know if it is as good as it's rumoured to be
b) You may have read it in the distant past and are lightly skimming a review to see if you want to obtain a copy
c) Bored and reading the reviews in case you find an opinion you dislike in a review and can comment on or simply want a fresh look
Well, whatever you are, "a" "b" or "c" and I assume the majority will be "a" I am going to recommend this book.
I always maintain that in most cases, if the book is well-written and has an okay plot line whether it's a good book or not is entirely up to the reader. And in a lot of cases, the first Harry Potter book is a good book. Below I attempt to outline the main reasons I think it is:
1. It is well-written and funny. J. K. Rowling has an inescapable wit and charm that permeates her books. The detail and intricacy cannot help but be adored and her level of observation reminds you in part of another literary giantess, Jane Austen. (Albeit in a modern guise for those of you who insist Jane Austen's genius can be compared to none.)
2. The imagination that is drawn into it is astonishing and you realise the level of intelligence this woman possesses to have created such a complex, diverse and yet intensely loveable world.
3. The morals are perhaps the main reason (and this fact becomes more relevant as the series progresses) the whole good overcoming evil concept is immensely gratifying. Indeed, you may observe that Harry is one of the truly good characters of the series, devoid of any malice.
4. The pronounced humanity. Harry's confused grief at his parent's death, and in further books, other significants, strikes a chord in many hearts. It makes it a book to treasure.
Whether you will like this or not, I don't have any control over but if I retain the ability to sway you in a direction, I hope it's positive because despite the hype and despite the pretended paganism it is a fantastic novel.
on 18 April 2005
Harry Potter And The Philosophers Stone is a classic book that has become legendary in its short existance since being published.
Rarely, it has to be pointed out, does this happen such is the measure of this fine book and a credit to its author who i and many others are greatful to for toiling away to create this extraordinary feat of literature.
As well as gearing people up for the following chronicles of Harry Potter, The Philosophers Stone stands out remarkably strong in its own right and would be celebrated just as much should it have been a stand alone book.
One of its many qualities is that it is such an enjoyable read and that it endures after repeated readings.
Also, despite its theme of witchraft and wizadry its characters are very much grounded in reality, to the extent that it is easy to relate to and identify with their experiences. For example the suffering Harry goes through by having to live with the Dursleys, as well as the conflict he encounters with Draco Malfoy and his stooges, not forgetting also the sentiment and loss Harry expresses over seeing his parents in ' the mirror of erised '
The Philosophers Stone is indeed a book of adventure but a very human adventure incorporating the classic tale of good versus evil.
It is a pleasure and a joy to be with Harry as he takes his first tentative steps into the realm of being a famous wizard, as he becomes familiar with his new fascinating life and as he becomes acquainted with his friends and foes.
Each aspect in the book is memorable, leaving an indeliable impression, like when Harry first meets Hagrid, when he takes his first trip to Diagon Alley and then every experience that unfolds once he arrives at Hogwarts. I make particular reference to the tense and climactic finale where an act of bravery and sheer cunning highlights great things to come from Harry, and his friends.
With a legacy that has seen the release of a film that compliments the book in every way, upon finishing reading Harry Potter And The Philosophers Stone it is a difficult choice to make as wether to continue on with the next installment or to re-read it once again.
on 10 November 2001
So, this is how it all began.
As a general rule, the first book in a series can sometimes be a bit slow. So much characterisation, so little time. But with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling manages to subtly weave together the characterisation of Harry, Ron and Hermione and still leave time to add elements of plot into the mix. Of course, the real action doesn't begin until you have gotten some way into the book, as would be expected - you can't just rush him to Hogwarts in a couple of pages!
And this is what I love about the Harry Potter books. Everything, from the characterisation to the colour of the decorations, is meticulously crafted. JK Rowling offers so vivid a picture of Harry's world that I hardly need to do any work at all - just sit and let the images she creates surround me.
As the beginning to the series, the book nicely sets up the key characters of Harry, Ron and Hermione and also introduces us to the other players in the book - the weird Professor Quirrell (Defence Against the Dark Arts), the slimy Professor Snape (Potions), the strict Professor McGonagall (Transfiguration), the zany Madame Hooch (Flying) and, of course, the eccentric Headmaster, Professor Dumbledore, as well as Harry's principle enemies, Draco Malfoy and his lackeys Crabbe and Goyle.
With this book, JK Rowling has opened up a world of magic and adventure that even Muggles can't resist - as I can tell from just reading both mine and my brother's Christmas list! Harry Potter clothes, boxed sets, soundtracks, computer games - and most of all the movie dominating our screens this Christmas.
All I can say is, 'Woohoo!'