The End of Harry Potter?
(Gollancz, £9.99, 195 pages, hardback, published 15 November
Potter in all its forms seems to have been around for ever, so it's
worth remembering that it has been just ten years from the publication
of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (aka Sorcerer's
Stone in the USA) to the 21 July 2007 when some seven-figure number
of people will own the seventh and final novel in the series. You could
argue on the series's derivativeness -- Ursula Le Guin via Diana Wynne
Jones via the English boarding school system -- on J.K. Rowling's stylistic
shortcomings and lack of editing. But on the other hand her storytelling
abilities have tended to be underrated -- she certainly has a way of
making you turn the pages. And whether it is derivative or not, she
has created a detailed and immersive fantasy world.
A fair-minded book on the whole Potter phenomenon would be welcome
-- one that doesn't forget the film versions (number five also out in
July 2007), which are not without merit. You could argue that Steve
Kloves's screenplays for the first four films have given the material
the structural edit that Rowling's editors were hesitant to suggest
-- especially with Goblet of Fire, the point where bloat significantly
set in to the novels. David Langford's The End of Harry Potter?
is not that book. It is a speculation, given Rowling's narrative strategies
in the first six novels and the clues hidden therein, as to what may
happen in the final volume.
I'm writing this at a time when the only people who know these answers
are Rowling, her editors and various high-ups at Bloomsbury Publishing.
Langford's book has already been partly overtaken by events: we know
now that the title will be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,
which makes one chapter of this book redundant. However, The End
of Harry Potter? is still worth reading -- and would be particularly
useful to writers -- in that it discusses how Rowling handles exposition,
and conveys information subtly enough so that a twist in the plot is
not a cheat. All this is done in Langford's trademarked amusing tone
-- which becomes self-indulgently jokey in a few places, such as his
own suggested endings. This makes for a pleasant read that goes some
way to overcoming the fact that the book will be obsolete in the none-too-distant
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