on 11 December 2003
I read this book in English and loved it, well who hasn't dreamed about being a wizard or witch? The decision to read the Spanish version was the result of a desperate search for material with which to improve both my reaiding and writing in this language. It was great, ok so afer only 18mths learning Spanish I found some passages tough, but knowing the english version meant that I could piece the story together and enjoy the challenge. I would reccomend this to any Spanish people looking for a fun read and any students searching for a way to improve their Spanish. Trust me you'll learn idioms, new vocabularly and it looks impressive on the bus!
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 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 19 April 2001
Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone read by Stephen Fry is the best CD book I have ever listened to. I am sure most people will agree that J.K. Rowling is a genius at writing the Harry Potter books, which over the last few years have become an international phenomenon. Now, with a lot of help from Stephen Fry they have put together a magnificent masterpiece, they have put it all on to CDs. I really don't think they could of chosen anyone better to read Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone than Stephen Fry. I am not the slightest bit surprised that he won a Talkie award for his reading of it. I would recommend this CD book to anyone.
Ashley Bickerstaff (Age 10)
on 20 February 2002
I really like audio books; they are a great way to really get into a story. You can listen to your favorite books over and over again. They really let you analyze a story. This is exactly what this set of tapes does for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
I think there are few people these days who haven't read the book, but listening to it is very different. We all know Stephen Fry as Melchett from "Blackadder", but his talents don't end there. He brings Harry's world to life beautifully in this. He does all the different voices really, really well. He does Hagrid espeacially well, just the way I'd immagined it. Stephen Fry was a very good choice.
As for the story, as most people know already, it's brilliant, really exciting and funny. Take my advice, if you haven't already read it (or listened to it) you reeeeeeeaaaaaaallllllly should!
This is well worth buying.
on 25 November 2001
This is the best read story tape I have ever listened to! Stephen Fry is the most beautiful reader one can possibly imagine hearing. Over this side of the Atlantic, we get Jim Dale, and he is just simply not very good.
Stephen Fry really does put you into the scenes and makes the whole idea of the Harry Potter world believeable and realistic.
If you live in America, do not hesitate for one moment to go out and get the Stephen Fry version. You won't be sorry!
on 10 July 2001
Primus Inter Pares means "first among equals"--that describes Mr. Fry! Not many realize, I didn't know myself before I'd heard him reading Rowling's work, that Mr. Fry was a Hogwarts' lad. His inimitable style is positively magical.
I live in the U.S. and the only Harry Potter CDs and cassette tapes available here are narrated by Jim Dale. Thus, most people here are not familiar with Fry's HP tapes. I don't like to insult Mr. Dale but his voice and manner of doing the characters made me shudder. He's not right for Harry Potter, at all! My husband agreed and we rushed the CD back to the store. After a little time and a lot of effort I learned I could only obtain Fry's versions of Harry Potter from the U.K.
What a blessed day it was when finally Fry's tapes were delivered to my door. After listening to the first one, my husband asked me to order the other three Harry Potter audio sets by Fry, at once. I was only too thrilled to oblige. Now we listen to them all the time: when we first wake up and as we are falling to sleep at night.
Stephen Fry combined with J.K. Rowling is an unrivaled treat. I prompt you to try them all! _Teri
on 4 August 2003
A long time after watching the movies, I finally decided to listen to the books. Having a lot of spare time in the car meant that the Audio CD's would be the best way to read the books, and Stephen Fry has done this proud. I felt the Philosophers Stone movie was rushed but to read/listen to the unabridged book was brilliant. Stephen Fry's voices and energy bring the book to life.
I was so impressed I have just bought the Chamber of Secrets, and The Prisoner of Azkaban. I'll start saving for the other 2.