Monday, June 13, 2016

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

A Fair Trade Book :-)

Title: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Author: J.K. Rowling

Author's web site:

Date: 1999

Publisher: Scholastic

ISBN: 0-430-06487-2

Length: 341 pages

Illustrations: black-and-white drawings by Mary Grandpré

Quote: “Harry Potter…was as not normal as it is possible to be.”

Of course Harry Potter’s reactions to being an orphaned wizard, whose relatives loathe him but who can talk to snakes, are as normal as it’s possible to be, under the circumstances. This may be the secret of his (and his author’s) success, which reached such fantastic heights that in 1999 adults were admittedly buying and reading these novels about children.

In case anyone out there doesn’t remember…during the first three of Harry Potter’s seven years at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the characters are children, and their adventures are only slightly more intense than the adventures in an ordinary school story. In the later volumes the characters are more like “young adults,” and their stories contain Adult Content, both in the sense of gore and violence and in the sense that they raise more “adult” philosophical issues.

The philosophical issues raised by the mere idea of a School of Witchcraft and Wizardry were controversial at the time. Rowling, a member of a Christian church, pointed out that the “wizardry” at Hogwarts consists of things medieval Christian adults seriously believed might be possible. Some Christian readers believed these things are “occult” and shouldn’t be topics of books Christians read. Others observed along with Washington Post book reviewers that in many ways Harry Potter’s studies of “wizardry” resembled his generation’s experience of computer technology, where a minority of people with a modicum of talent were doing things that had seemed impossible to their elders; how “occult” can metaphors for computer technology be? At least one writer seriously proposed that Christian parents whose children got into the Harry Potter fad could use volumes one through three as bases for many specifically Christian lessons, outlined in the book The Gospel According to Harry Potter. (I read the original version, which was about volumes one through three; only just found this one on should be an interesting read, because Harry's shamanic "death" in volume seven definitely touched on Christian theological issues.)

None of this is exactly news to most readers. What do you still need to know about a book that you probably either made a commitment not to buy, or already have bought? No book is harder to sell than a recent bestseller. To offset the current difficulty of marketing a Harry Potter book, I dressed a doll like the character as shown on the cover: pale blue shirt, dark blue trousers, red cape…although Hogwarts was based on Eton and the text specified that the school uniform consists of black robes, as formerly worn by judges and Etonians, and still worn by members of some church choirs. 

I wrote this review on June 13. I'm posting it on June 21, using the scheduling feature so that it shows up for June 13. Somebody saw the physical copy of the book, and the doll, and bought both on June 17. Maybe some people are still buying Harry Potter books after all. Well, J.K. Rowling is still a living writer, so they are still available as Fair Trade Books. Any or all of the seven volumes can be bought here for $5 per used book + $5 per package. Each volume was a little bit thicker, as well as being more "adult," than the ones before it; I might be able to squeeze all seven into two packages, for a total cost of $45, but until I've physically done that I can't promise that they wouldn't require three packages for $50. Either way, J.K. Rowling or a charity of her choice gets $1 for each book you buy here. Seriously...we all know she no longer really needs the money, but she supports valid charities. Payment may be sent to either address at the very bottom of the screen (down past the blog feed).