Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I think I went on holiday fairly recently, didn't I? One of the many unwritten posts in my head arising from about that involves Harry Potter. Regular readers of Petrona may remember an optimistic posting about Cathy's and my hopes that Dumbledore is not, in fact, dead. These hopes were fairly soon afterwards snuffed out by J K Rowling herself, via a post on her website.

Well, I have to report that Cathy and I are both now convinced. (Cathy has already posted about it on Oasis.) Professor D is definitely no more. It's all in the book (6, that is).

Because we had many hours of driving to look forward to on our trip to France, I had prepared by obtaining the CD of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (aka HP6). As predicted, Stephen Fry's wonderful reading of the book had all four of us utterly absorbed for every moment it was on (and it is a long book, there are a lot of moments). Even though, of course, we had all read the written version previously.

The rest of this post follows on the continuation sheet, partly for length reasons and partly because although it gives away as little as possible, it does reveal some bits of the plot of this and previous HP books.

 

The length of our actual journey allowed full appreciation of the metaphorical journey so clearly taken in the book. As gradually becomes clear, Dumbeldore is finding out all he can about Tom Riddle's (Voldemort's) past, in the knowledge or hope of finding information that will help to defeat him. After the events of book 5, Dumbledore understands his previous, well-meaning mistake of treating Harry as a child (which did not in the event protect him), and now includes Harry as a full partner in this enterprise.

The main plot, amid diversions and distractions, involves set pieces in which Dumbledore and Harry, via the Pensieve, gradually discover what Voldemort has (probably) done to ensure his own immortality. (Actually, I should say that Dumbledore gradually realises what is probably going on, Harry being a far braver soul than he is bright.) In the process, Dumbledore realises that he must take huge risks to find out enough to counter Voldemort. Perhaps the ultimate risk. And he is unflinching about that.

As we know, Voldemort's weakest aspect is his inability to understand love, personal sacrifice and honour. Dumbeldore uses this fact. If he has to die to ensure Voldemort is defeated, he will die in a way that will give Harry the best chance at survival.

In HP6, Dumbledore is a mentor and teacher to Harry, patiently explaining and sharing all his knowledge (and to be fair, Harry does eventually manage to obtain the most important piece of evidence for Dumbeldore's Voldemort theory). But he has also become Harry's only remaining parent/guardian figure: a combination of Lily, James and Sirius. Dumbeldore uses the sacrifice of his own life to ensure (he hopes) that Snape's credibility with Voldemort is maintained, and hence that Harry is protected.

Harry Potter is more than the sum of its parts. Some of the book is so moving that three of the four listners were reduced to tears. J K Rowling is not the world's greatest stylist, or creator of characters, but her unparallelled plotting ability combined with her breathtaking ability to convey layers of emotional meaning and intensity, not on just one theme but on many — sacrifice, love, fate, hate, death –  is pure Greek tragedy. If that woman doesn't get a Nobel prize when book seven is finished, then there is no justice in the world.

Originally posted at Petrona on 23 September 2006.

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