How can I even begin to try and review the entire Harry Potter series? The one series that defined more of my teenage life than any other (except perhaps A Series of Unfortunate Events)? It’s just not possible to do it justice, so I’m not even going to try. Instead, here are some rambling thoughts on the series as narrated by Stephen Fry, which I’ve spent this summer delighting in.
Various friends have raved about Fry’s performance over the years, but I’ve always resisted the audiobooks, not wanting to miss a single magical moment. Audiobooks are my go-to for walking to work and doing chores around the house, so I tend to go for Stephen Kings and similar – books where it doesn’t really matter if you drift out for a sentence or two while loading the washing machine. As it happens, Harry Potter was a perfect substitute – stories so familiar and well-loved that I knew exactly what was happening even if I had to step away for a moment.
Fry’s narration really is magnificent. His command of voices and accents is superb, to the extent that out of dozens if not hundreds of characters, the only voice I felt he missed the mark on was Tonks. I adore Tonks, but the grating, screeching Yorkshire accent he bestowed upon her was an affront to my ears. Also, for some reason in Sirius-heavy books, he constantly dropped the possessive ‘s’ – so for example, “Sirius’s hippogriff” or “Sirius’s patronus” would just be “Sirius hippogriff” and “Sirius patronus”, which was odd to say the least.
I think every time I revisit this series I pick up on something new, and on this venture through – perhaps because I was listening to rather than reading it – it struck me how epically long Voldemort’s Goblet of Fire monologue is. We have Harry trussed to a headstone, the Death Eaters before their master for the first time in over a decade, and on and on he drones about every element of his disappearance, reappearance and cunning plan. All we need is a bunch of meddling kids, a few monster masks and we’d have a decent episode of Scooby Doo.
I’m never ever going to like Snape, but for the first time I began to see certain scenes through his eyes, and notice how Harry may not be the most reliable of narrators, quick to make assumptions as he is. Also. ALSO. My biggest takeaway from listening to Deathly Hallows is that, Voldemort thinks Snape is the true master of the Elder wand, because he was the one to kill Dumbledore. Except then, instead of killing Snape himself, he has Nagini do it. By Voldie’s own logic, that would make Nagini true master of the wand. HOW IS NAGINI GOING TO USE THE ELDER WAND TO DEFEAT HARRY POTTER??? NAGINI DOESN’T EVEN HAVE HANDS.
Hysteria and ridiculousness aside, I love this series with an enduring fondness. It will always have a very special place in my heart. I’m off to the studio tour for the fourth (and probably not the last!) time next month, and already wondering if it’s too soon to watch the films again, after last marathoning them in July. I usually leave it two or three years between re-reading the books, but I know that whether it’s 2018 or 2019 when I return to them again, the pages will contain just as much magic as ever.
[Read from 11 July-20 September 2016]