Monday, 5 June 2000
J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997)
Review number: 518
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was hailed as a new children's classic almost from the moment of its publication. From a cynical thirty year old point of view, it is easy to see why this is, but it is so well written that it succeeded in turning me into a fan even so. It combines several well-worn themes of children's fiction - the outsider (Harry Potter, brought up by his uncle and aunt much against their wishes - in a cupboard rather than the third bedroom); magic adventures in a hidden land (there is a secret world of wizards and witches alongside the mundane one of the "Muggles" in which we live); school (the school for wizards to which Harry goes is an old fashioned boarding school, a staple of fiction long after they were important parts of educational provision) and so one - and its background is never quite original. Yet the writing marks it out; the characters may start out as stereotypes, but they are intelligently developed; the details of the story are atmospheric and frequently very funny.
In terms of parallels, the novel most frequently reminded my of C.S. Lewis' Narnia stories, and as these are childhood favourites I still enjoy, it is not surprising that I enjoyed Rowling.