Once upon a time a few weeks ago, I went to the beach with my cousin who had regaled me with a very detailed retelling of Harry Potter during a family dinner roughly 17 years ago. (woof). We were sitting on the beach discussing HP as grown-ass, fully adult women, and we came to a point of dissension: what did we think of the second in the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. She said it was one of her favorites, I said it was one of our least favorites, she pulled my hair, I threw sand in her eyes, and we’re still not speaking. Most of that last sentence is a lie, but I’m pleased to say that I loved The Chamber of Secrets far more on this re-read, done in conjunction and a bit behind schedule with The Book Smugglers, than I remembered loving it in the past. Here are some of my thoughts:
- I think Rowling mentions how fat Dudley is five times in the space of two pages in one of the early chapters; the fact that his weight is meant to be part of his piss-poor personality is troublesome. Not a fan, and I can’t believe I didn’t notice this the first few times I’ve read The Chamber of Secrets.
- Traveling by floo powder seems TERRIBLE, and how do you know when you’ve gotten out at the “right” fireplace? They all say Diagon Alley, BUT THAT IS A STREET, NOT AN ADDRESS. WHICH FIREPLACE IS THE RIGHT ONE ?!
- OMG, the opal necklace AND the vanishing cabinet make their first appearances! Oh, I just love these kinds of continuity details, don’t you? I actually ended up discussing this with my high school book club yesterday, and there was a lot of high pitched girl squealing and shaking of hands in a flustered/excited sort of way, not in a “pleased to meet you” sort of way.
- I love that Ron and Harry problem-solve getting locked out of platform 9 and 3/4 by stealing a flying car instead of just sitting in said car and waiting for their parents like normal children. Pretty sure the Weasleys would have been down to drive them to Hogwarts, no? Still, gotta love their pluck!
- Why do so many bad guys have such greasy hair? Is an oily scalp always an indicator of the evil lurking within? Do I need to wash my hair more often? Are you compensating for something, J.K.?
- Everyone is always blushing before, during, and after every single interaction. It’s great.
- I think I gain ten pounds every time I read one of these books; can ANYONE make food sound as delicious as J.K. Rowling?
- GILDEROY LOCKHART. I can’t help but picture Kenneth Branagh in each and every scene, and that’s just fine fucking fine because his portrayal of this self-adoring wizard is so perfect I could pee. “It’s an odd sort of place, this, isn’t it? Do you live here?” is one of the best moments of both the book and the movie. I must say, though, it seems like they could have found someone more well-suited to the Defense Against the Dark Arts professorial position even though he was the only one to apply. I mean, really.
- THE MANDRAKES. I love J.K Rowling’s thoughtful details, and the maturation of the mandrakes in this book has always been one of my favorite bits of all the books ever. How can you not smile a little smile when she tells you that the mandrakes are becoming moody and secretive, and so must be close to maturation?
That’s all, folks! Til next month, when I reread my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE of the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban…