October began with the last couple of books in the Harry Potter series, which got a bit emotional. I might be ten years or more behind the rest of the world with some of the stories and I’ve seen endless spoilers, but that didn’t stop me having a good ol’ cry when Dumbledore died.
I won’t ramble on about my reactions to the series, as I’ve already written about it here, but I think I read Harry Potter at just the right time for me and weeks later, I’m still thinking about the books and the experience of reading them.
Not everyone will understand this, but some of my fondest memories are of reading books, particularly series, or more specifically of how I felt at that time. There’s nothing like shutting yourself away for a few days with an amazing story that makes you want to climb inside the world described on those pages, where you could read and read for hours.
That’s how I felt finishing the Potter books. Massive admiration for J.K. Rowling for achieving that!
This month I also managed to read a few non-HP books, starting with Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig.
This book has been demanding my attention for a few weeks and once I’d finished with Hogwarts it felt like the right time. Part memoir, part self-help book, this is a powerful read for such a short book. It begins with Matt describing his experience with depression and anxiety, and the sheer force with which it took over his life.
He then talks about how he overcame the worst of his problems and shares advice and inspiring ideas that prove ultimately uplifting.
At times this was difficult to read, especially the early chapters: I find that sometimes hearing other talk about their anxiety can be a trigger for my own feelings, so some parts were hard to confront. But this isn’t a book that is designed to bring you down, or make you pity the author. It’s about sharing your emotions and realising that most of us battle with these darker parts of life at one time or another and we should be more open about our experiences.
A beautifully written little book that everyone should read.
I got a big library haul over the summer but have been putting off actually reading anything, thanks to Harry and co. instead I’ve been renewing the books over and over, so it was finally time to make the effort and read one of them.
I started with Paper Towns by John Green. I’ve heard a lot of fantastic things about his novels and previously read Looking for Alaska, although I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Paper Towns follows Q, band geek and outsider, as he goes on a midnight adventure with his childhood friend and neighbour, Margo, a member of the popular crowd at school.
Margo has discovered her boyfriend is cheating on her with a friend, so she sets out to get her revenge, with Q along for the ride. And when she subsequently runs away, he is obsessed with following the clues she leaves behind and making sure she’s okay.
This didn’t start too badly, but by the time I was a hundred pages in I was tearing my hair out. Remember when Dawson’s Creek had been on for a couple of years and everyone started to complain that teenagers didn’t talk the way Dawson, Pacey, Jen and Joey did? Well teenagers don’t behave the way the characters in this book do. It might have been a good idea to have a jilted girlfriend setting out to prank her friends in revenge, but the whole thing didn’t ring true for me.
Once I got about halfway through the book, I skim read the remainder of the story and it didn’t improve. Sorry.
After this, I went back to the wizarding world of Harry Potter with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. For anyone who may have had their head under a rock recently, this is the latest instalment in Rowling’s story, which jumps into the future and follows Harry’s son Albus as he heads to Hogwarts and befriends Scorpius Malfoy. As outsiders, the two boys have a lot of issues, which get them into a world of trouble when they decide to embark on a magical adventure to rescue Cedric Diggory from death.
I know a lot of people have been conflicted over the Cursed Child: some people hate the fact that it’s not a novel, it’s the script from the new West End theatre production; others hate the story and I’ve seen reviews that describe it as little more than fan fiction.
I actually really enjoyed it. As the story is told mostly through dialogue and stripped back stage descriptions, it quickens the pace considerably. One thing I disliked about the earlier novels was Rowling’s tendency to fill pages with exposition later in the story when she wanted to tie everything together. That, along with her detailed descriptions, was missing from the Cursed Child.
The story worked well within the boundaries of the world that Rowling created, and the idea of alternate futures is something I’m always intrigued by, so enjoyed seeing how things might have played out for Harry and his friends had circumstances been different.
The bad thing is, now I really want to go and see this live on stage!
Finally this month, I read Grief is a Thing with Feathers by Max Porter, which has popped up in all sorts of awards and on books of the year lists.
A brief story, told partly in prose poetry style, this is a tale of a man and his two young sons, and how they cope when his wife dies. It’s an often symbolic and fragmented study of grief and loss that I found interesting in an experimental sort of way, but I didn’t find it particularly moving. It’s the sort of books that is perfect for study and readers will surely find all kinds of layers of meaning that may change on rereading. But it doesn’t have a coherent narrative, so if that’s your thing then this probably isn’t for you.
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling
- Reasons to Stay Alive, by Matt Haig
- Paper Towns, by John Green
- Harry Potter and the cursed child, Part 1,2, by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany
- Grief is the Thing with Feathers, by Max Porter
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