This beautiful quote by C.S. Lewis inspired my post for the third blogger challenge topic – ‘Once upon a time’. This topic was set by Gaby who is doing a fabulous job of running the challenge:
“This is something I, personally, have never done, and I know I would really love to […] The book can be anything, by any author and you could have read it last week or had it read to you when you were a toddler, it really is up to you. Just share your most loved (or maybe hated) book.”
Now please don’t stop reading when I say this, but my most loved book is actually seven books…yes, the Harry Potter series. I said don’t stop reading! I find that my friends are really split down the middle with Harry Potter, the boy wizard is kind of like Marmite, you either love and adore the entire world of Potter…. or you’re dead to me. No no, I just mean there are some poor people out there who either haven’t read the books (its okay, they will never go out of print, there’s still time for you) or have read them and…this is hard to type…maybe disliked them.
I need a minute.
One of the biggest arguments I hear, mainly from my mum, is that they are children’s books. I’m 27, and only read the series in my twenties. Of all my friends the ones that adore them as I do are aged 20+, with the exception of my cousin Emily *hi Emily* who is 14 and sensible enough to know that Potter is a way of life and she must conform if she does not want to be shunned by her amazing older cousin. These are not just children’s books!
Each book relates to a school year, with the first book taking place predominantly during the first year in Hogwarts (the school of witchcraft and wizardry, keep up) which corresponds with year 7 in our world. Although they don’t all attend, the seventh book is set around the seventh year at Hogwarts, which would be our last year of sixth form. So the stories show the maturity of the characters, and the plots darken and deepened accordingly. The last book is certainly not a kids book, it has so many layers beneath the main storyline, and the theme becomes dark and dangerous – although despite saying that I should admit that the Dementors, who first appear in the third book, still scare me to this day *blush*
The reason this series means so much to me is the same reason the quote reaches out to me. I was lucky enough to start reading the series before the films were made and during the time that the last few books were launched. I’d wake up early and sit by my door waiting for Amazon to deliver my pre-ordered copy of the new books, which I’d then read in a day (two days for the fifth book, have you seen how many pages it has?!) before jumping onto a forum to discuss the plot with my friends, the same friends I’d been discussing the possible plot developments with for the months running up to each new books launch.
Now this sounds like incredibly geekish behaviour, but let me just make a few things clearer… The forum I knew these people on had nothing to do with books, it was actually a forum for fans of a shop (which did not sell books!), designed by the company for customers to post about their favourite products and customer service experiences.. except it grew into more than that. The forum grew into a world containing hundreds of people who only knew each other by their online persona, yet who genuinely cared about each other. There were a million splinter threads within the forum posts discussing every topic under the sun, the Harry potter ones were always immense
These were the first people I met through a book. We were based all around the world, with lives so different and personalities so contrasting that had we met in real life I’m sure most of us would not have taken the time to get to know each other. However through the safety defence of a computer with an off button, we made friends, shared confidences, helped and supported each other through extremely tough times…oh and shared our love for certain books!
The second group of people I met through this particular book series are of course the characters. Yes, yes, I did see your eyes roll then! It’s so corny, but it’s so true! The best thing about these books are the amount of main characters – it’s not just about Harry, Ron and Hermione! (For those who don’t know, they are the three kids on the posters standing in front of the divine cloak-bearing Alan Rickman, an old wizard dude and Helena Bonham Carter who supplied her own costume).
The main characters differ so much to each other that there is somebody for everyone to fall in love with, regardless of your personality, beliefs or ‘type’. For me, it was Snape (another mention for the sexy brooding Rickman) who stole my heart. The baddie turned goodie with a broken heart and a love so true that it stayed with him until death. His is such a beautifully written, complex and heart wrenching character. I actually want Lily (Harry’s mum, read the cliff notes) to stop him from turning bad and to marry him instead of James, although then Harry Potter would be a very different character and the story wouldn’t really work…
The other people I’ve met through these books are everyone I’ve met since 2007, when I left my first job after five years and drifted among other short-term placements, training courses and eventually college classes. Every time I was faced with a new team of people to get to know, I would within a few days bring up the potter question – Do you like Harry Potter? There would always, ALWAYS, be at least one person who would scream yes and proceed to gush about the books, films, characters and general wonderness involved. These are the people who would become my friends, the barriers were broken and I could immediately relax around them. These are the people I would then get to know and almost always become close friends with, they would also be the only ones I’d keep in touch with. I just can’t trust people who don’t like Harry Potter!
The final, and most important, reason that I love the series so much is because the books have become my comfort blanket. The magical story within is written so well and is such an intense and detailed tale that even my crazy mind will shut off whilst I’m reading – this doesn’t happen with other books – allowing me to find peace and calm. My close friends know that if I’m having a bad day I will turn my phone off, get under the duvet and read one of the potter books, protected from the outside world.
My mind is my own worst enemy; left to it’s own devices it will belittle and bully me, encouraging me to destroy myself. Before these books I had nothing powerful enough to come between me and my inner voice. It would attack me during the early hours, cruel psychotic thoughts that would destroy any normality I had until I’d be screaming into a pillow desperate to shut my mind up permanently – I’d feel so alone.
These books hold the only stories powerful enough to keep my head busy and prevent the black thoughts from taking over. Instead they fill my brain with happiness, magic and self-belief; These books have become my friends.
We read to know that we are not alone.