So, I actually did read this the day it was released - a day before I had my first day of work - which proves that I'm not only great with the remaining exactly the same over years of transformation, but that my number one skill is distraction.
Uhm, there are spoilers in this post. And negativity. (Actually, there are opinion spoilers for the ending of Life on Mars too, so if you care about that, uh... )
I didn't think I would come away revelling in JKR's genius and I was right.
In my opinion, it was not a brilliant book. It, perhaps, wasn’t even a good book. Most in it was predicted – Snape, the cruelty of Dumbledore, Ron and Lupin being gits but redeeming themselves, the Hogwarts War, the importance of runes, the sense of parable. The feeling I had after finishing it reminded me of the ending of Life on Mars, so I’m proud of myself for not getting excited or expectant of anything mindblowing – it was initial joy and then deflation all over again.
And, like the final episode of LoM, I was mocking it all the way through and concentrating on the redeeming features to gain enjoyment. I think the thing is that, like LoM, these elements I'm not in love with had been predicted, but dismissed - they had been deemed unworthy of a creator who had shown genius, because they contradicted a facet of narrative/storytelling finesse. They were obvious, or told something that would be better left untold. They weakened the artistry, I guess, of tales that were engaging, intelligent, and sometimes delightfully obscure. But the threads so that those elements could be predicted had always been there – they’d merely been taken as red herrings, alongside the potential story lines that were much more interesting.
Perhaps it’s just that it’s the end of the mystery. It’s what occurs in television – you never, ever get the couple with UST together until the final few episodes, because people get bored. They don’t want to see the established relationship, they want to see the tango, the conflict of will they/won’t they. Audiences don’t want resolution, not really, because then it’s over, even if the story appears to go on. The few times the UST resolution has worked are far outweighed by those it’s ended in disaster – and the case must be true of solved mysteries and surprises.
I was glad that I was right about Snape. Not so glad about the reason, though. I’d thought as much – dreaded as much, really. But it makes sense, it really does. However – just because he loved one person, does not make him Snape Victorious. Yes, this is pointed out, in the text (by EvilDore, no less), I just felt I had to reiterate, since the fanshrines are now bound to be clad in sparkling green glitter. Snape was not a nice man. A good man? – in the end – still probably no. On the side of good? Well, compared to Voldemort, yes. I always said this, and I always said it would contradict any positive message JKR had with the books if Dumbledore had trusted Snape in vain – well, somehow, she still managed to contradict her positive messages. I hadn’t thought she’d do it by having Dumbledore be quite as flawed as he was. Kind of brave, but also a touch infuriating. We knew he wasn’t white as white, but I was surprised she decided to go down that route – when she’d so derided ‘is Dumbledore evil?’ as a question before. Once again – evil? No. Good? Also probably not. When talking to Amy on the phone (she's the only other person whose opinion on the book I've encountered so far), I discovered that I might be judging Dumbledore more harshly than he was intended to be judged.
For me, Dumbledore never changed from being that 17 year old who believed in the Greater Good - it's just that his Greater Good changed, and I find that very disturbing. He was willing to sacrifice Harry, in a cold and calculated manner. The fall of the one for the good of the many - and, I don't know - maybe it's me, I know that that is a common literary theme, but I find that totally disgusting in ways I can't quite articulate. I think --- because it's not Dumbledore's sacrifice - he's putting it onto Harry. And yes, there's the prophecy - but what happened to that whole concept of free will and personal choice? And yes there's that whole crack sequence that seemingly absolves DD of any wrong-doing, because he's remorseful and only had the best intentions - and Harry comes away going 'la la la la la', but I am thoroughly appalled. Perhaps that's my selfish nature coming through, but did DD even ponder if there was another way?
I think the sad thing, for me, was that I had read it all before, and sometimes, written with considerably more skill. And I don’t even read much fan fiction. I’ve read maybe 15 individual Harry Potter fics longer than 3000 words all the way through. Of course, there is the difference of audiences to contend with. JKR needed the exposition for the younger readers – that can be excused, even though I still hated it. It’s common to reinforce, especially in the final of a series. But on the whole, I was not impressed with the plot twists, because they weren't plot twists - I'd seen most of them discussed ad nauseum. And sure, that's my fault - that's nothing JKR did wrong - but it affected my engagement with the text.
I’ve never thought that JKR was a marvellous wordsmith, I’ve always felt she could be better, but sometimes her phrasing is memorable – especially anything Dumbledore has ever said. There were glimpses of beautiful scenes there, some of Ron’s dialogue was wonderful. There were some laugh out loud moments, some slightly tearful moments. But on the whole, I don’t think I’d use it an example of Great Writing. Has JKR always been that clunky and had I not worried before?
The flow of exposition was not as masterfully handled as I would have liked. There was severe overuse of the word ‘blimey’ (enough that it would be a good drinking game.) I don't know - the whole novel felt like it had been written by a seventeen year old, a lot of the time. With all a seventeen year old’s maturity and ability to convey abstract thought. Now, I know a lot of brilliant seventeen year olds, don’t get me wrong – hell sixteen, fifteen, fourteen year olds, – and in fact, some of them are considerably more mature and more capable than myself, but I’m going with the common (mis)conception, here. It’s a matter of narrator versus point of view – we’re close to Harry, yes, and he is still a very young adult, but what about those moments that aren’t from his perspective? Whilst I can believe that Voldemort has the emotional maturity of a child, I doubt he should sound like one.
I found that the tenting around Britain/setting up for Fleur's wedding needed to be cut/tightened. Yeah, that's once again me - a minimalist who gets bored easily with description - because, clearly, it's a richness of text issue - JKR trying to give us more than the one single plot - Harry versus Voldemort. Maybe that was partly inspired by me just wanting to see the final showdown, but apart from some fried gold between Hermione and Ron, I was merely frustrated with those scenes and how long they went on for.
A lot of it – Hedwig’s death, for instance, was overwrought. And once again – it annoyed me that a story that had managed to be so subtle in various different ways went for over the top melodrama in the final sweep. I was kind of amused by how much time Hedwig got in comparison to say, oh, Lupin and Tonks. And the latter two had been fighting to defend Hogwarts at the time. With a newly born child to care for. And okay, so Lupin had shown himself to be a bit of a git who needed to be told what to do by Harry, but he had gone and done it, and they seemed to make up.
And the death, everywhere, death – it got almost comical. By the time we got up to Fred, I giggled. This is terrible of me, but --- it was kind of a Hamlet style bloodbath, you know, and I became desensitised, sort of much like in OotP, when I knew someone major was dying, and we had all the previous deathscares. I couldn’t bring myself to deeply care about Sirius then, and I don’t really care about Fred now. Even though I actually loved Fred a great deal, and should, by rights, be incredibly upset.
Finally, there’s a lot more I can say, and I probably will, but, to continue what I said earlier, I will never, ever understand how Harry forgave Dumbledore. Or even named his child after him. Bwuh? And admitting that Snape was the bravest person he knew – also naming his child after him? Bwuh? And James Potter’s a git again – so it skips a generation? And Rose and Hugo? BWUH? That entire epilogue was the cheese on top of the crusty ham roll, really.
I'd love to see other people's opinions, but I don't have the time to go trawling - so, links to posts, or comments here would be appreciated.