Starting this winter, I re-read all of the Harry Potter series books, from Sorcerer’s Stone through Deathly Hallows. It had been quite a few years since I had read any of the books, and my recent recollections of the story line came by way of the films. So now I can see why my daughter, who was 5 when the first film came out and a teenager for the last one, complained so mightily about how much the films left out.
The books on second reading are so much richer than the films. But even if I hadn’t seen the films at all, the second reading would have been richer and here’s why: The story of Harry Potter, the boy who lived, who must do away with “He Who Must Not Be Named” or die himself, is incredibly complex. We meet more than 100 characters over the course of seven books. The three main characters evolve from childhood though puberty and teen years to become full-fledged adults and parents. I don’t know about you, but I read the books the first time at a very fast clip. For the first four books, I was competing with my husband for time alone with our sole copies. Later, our daughter was in the mix, too. So it would have been impolite to read at a leisurely pace. But doing that wasn’t good for retaining facts and details. On the second time through, I didn’t have to hurry. There were rewards in coming upon little tidbits in the early books that I, as a reader, knew would be revealed later as important clues or facts. These little items were just so much background detail the first time through. On second reading, though, they became little gems that the main characters hadn’t yet discovered.
The second grand tour also allowed me to see consistencies and inconsistencies along the way. Characters grew over the story arc but ultimately were painted with more and more layers enhancing their original varnish. I caught one major plot error, though, and I understand it’s been changed in later editions: When afterimages of all the people Voldemort has killed are forced from his wand, they were to appear in order from most recent to first. But Harry’s father emerges BEFORE his mother, rather than the other way around, even though we know Lily Potter’s death was more recent (perhaps by just a few minutes) than James Potter’s.
Until now, I’ve never been much of a re-reader. I remember loving Wuthering Heights when I read it as a college student, but 35 years later, it lost quite a bit of luster in the re-reading. I think I’m going to go back to some old favorites now and see what reading them again does. Will they be disappointing in hindsight or provide a richer experience because of what I bring the second time around?