on 25 March 2010
Those of us who are still Harry Potter fans despite the fact that we're much too old for Hogwarts have been well-treated in the English-speaking world. We can buy the 'adult edition' of the books which have elegant black covers that don't look out of place beside our Dostoevsky and James Joyce. We no longer have to pretend we're just buying them for a favourite nephew - we can even read them in public without getting funny looks. On our I-pods we can have them read beautifully for us by Stephen Fry, in his dignified Cambridge-educated voice. It's easy to pretend they are really grown-up books that just happen to appeal to children.
Therefore this French audio version came as a major culture shock to me. Bernard Giraudeau reads in a style that is unashamedly and exuberantly aimed at 9 to 11 year olds. The character voices are very comical; poor Ron has a silly lisp, and even the narration has in a rather breathless, over-excited feel to it.
I must admit I do prefer the English version but I'm gradually getting used to the more childish tone. It does make the book lots of fun and you could always pretend you're only listening to it to improve your language skills; that you don't really have pathetically juvenile tastes in literature!
on 14 September 2010
I didn't join the Harry Potter bandwagon when the craze started; I thought the style was not great, the narrative clunky, and that basically it's a load of kids and teachers behaving like your average school but with a few dragons and potions thrown in; in short, I felt it lacked magic.
I am now working through the series in French, and, perhaps because I am working in a foreign language, I am reading the books as a child might read them. The things that irritated me don't anymore, I am charmed by J K Rowling's wacky sense of humour, and dazzled by the skill with which she weaves the plot - and the plot in Azkaban really is beyond clever, winding the up tension to the very last pages.
I would rate it even more highly if it were not for the author's 19th century approach to animal welfare. Animals, and especially birds, J.K., do not belong in cages.
One more thing - don't judge the book by the film, because the latter misses the point entirely. At least I think this is true - I got so cross with the film I gave up a third of the way through.