Musings on the Philosopher’s Stone

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Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_Cover*Possible spoilers for later books*

As I mentioned in my last post, I had so much fun with this reread! It was such an emotional and nostalgic journey, retracing Harry’s steps from the cupboard under the stairs to Diagon Alley to Hogwarts hero, that I was completely swept up in the magic of it all! Even though I’ve said my relationship with Harry Potter can be quite complicated, if you’re thinking this will be full of serious griping straight away, I’d say you’ll be sorely disappointed with this review 😉 (but also don’t expect pure gush- expecto patronum the unexpected 😉 )

I adore the writing in the earlier books. From the first line, the subtle humour comes across, there are lovely elements of foreshadowing and so much personality in the characterisation. My exact words in my notes were: gosh that’s how you write a children’s book. And while there’s some things I’m not crazy about, like the use of ALL CAPS to express anger (I’m an everything-is-italicised person- JK 😉 ), it’s used minimally in book one, so I didn’t mind it.

Rowling’s precision in this book allows for the most wonderful world-building. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you all about how much I love the idea of owl post or how much I still dream of playing Quidditch (on a broom, not a spacehopper). There are so many glorious details- everything from the Mirror of Erised to the Chocolate Frog cards- that it would be impossible for me to cover everything! Not only is it incredibly vivid, but there’s a trunk load of secrets packed in- it’s no mystery why this captured the hearts of so many children!

Speaking of which, I realised recently how brilliantly coded Harry Potter is and what a master Rowling is at creating a thrilling plot. There are so many hints for things that happen wayyy later in the series- like Sirius getting a mention or Hagrid saying about Gringotts “Yeh’d be mad to try and rob it” (*wink wink nudge nudge*)- which are all that more satisfying for knowing where it’s headed. It’s no wonder I spent so much time between books combing through for hints of what was to come.

This also came into play for the characterisation– for instance there is plenty of set up for Hagrid’s role in later books. There isn’t as much for Dumbledore here- he’s somewhat more distant- but that adds a wondrous layer of mystique to his character. I do question him being careless with Harry’s life, while not trusting him with the truth- but I figure that comes more from my attitude towards him in later books than anything in this book (or perhaps is just more evidence of Rowling’s mastery with foreshadowing).

I absolutely *love* the moment the Golden Trio become friends– it’s probably my favourite part in the whole book. It allows for Hermione’s character to develop *so much* in a really short space and I love getting to know her more here. I’m a bit iffier when it comes to Ron cos I’ve always liked him the least- but I have a good friend (hi Jenni if you’re reading!) who ingeniously broke down why Ron actually makes total sense as a character. She basically pointed out that everyone knows someone who’s basically average across the board and doesn’t really stand out- and personally I prefer that to the “he’s got hidden depths argument”. That said, once I saw him as more of an everyman, I felt a bit freer to think of him in terms of the “Big Five” personality traits (yes I’m a dork- what of it?) and considered that one of things that grates on me is that his disagreeable temperament makes him somewhat rude, but more importantly competitive, which doesn’t balance out with his lack of conscientiousness, consequently leading to his lack of productivity and the development of his resentful side (told you I was a dork 😉 ).

Anyhoo, he’s basically a mini version of his later self- much like Harry. Draco Malfoy’s very obvious goading to go to a midnight duel totally works because he’s incredibly rash and doesn’t think of the consequences of his actions. Incidentally, while Draco comes across as a snotty nosed git here, I have to admit I was pretty impressed with his scheming and love how he used Harry’s weakness against him at the age of 11. I may not be a Slytherin, but that’s smart as hell. And like everything else, there are a lot of clues for later books about things that might cause a problem later on– like the whole subplot around saying Voldy’s name.

In terms of Voldy’s introduction, I have such mixed feelings about the “Dunno if he had enough human left in him to die” line. I mean it’s so awesome in the ahh I know where that’s going kind of way, but it also nods to some of the attitudes towards evil that I had issues with the later books. I did however think the symbolism of killing something as pure as a unicorn only leading to a cursed life was SO PERFECT. I also liked how believable the Dursley’s cruelty was, partly thanks to its specificity. Plus, I loved the obvious (to all of us now) misdirection with Snape- who really does seem irredeemably evil in book 1.

The one real downside for this book is that it’s the one I’ve read the most, so I never get as fully excited about it and always feel a little fatigued by the end. Because of that I have trouble rating it- given I usually give it between 4 and 5, I went for an indecisive…

Rating:  4½/5 bananas

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Phew- first review done! I hope you liked reading it (and I didn’t make anyone too mad with my analysis). What do you think of the Philosopher’s Stone? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

75 thoughts on “Musings on the Philosopher’s Stone

  1. I would like to be the person to shout “woah, spoilers!” because I know how much you enjoy that 😉

    I really love the innocence of the first few books and spotting all of the clues and red herrings. Looking forwards to your thoughts on book two (is that the one where fan letters are published in the back? The ones from teachers and parents literally make me cry – I have no idea why they get to me more than the death of Dobby *sorrynotsorryaboutspoilers*)

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  2. Wow, amazing review!! LOL I love analyzing with the Big 5 Personality traits too. I really enjoyed this book; the writing does appeal to a more juvenile audience and usually that doesn’t get me interested, but it worked quite the opposite for this one. I can’t wait to reread and notice all the subtle hints for later on in the book! 😊

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    1. Thank you!! hehehe I know right- I’m doing it *all the time* at the moment 😉 And yes I really agree with you there- it’s so endearing and I loved it 😊 And that’s one of the best things about this series! (among way too many other things lol 😉 )

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  3. I loved this review ❤ so much nostalgia and memories. And thank you for mentioning that Draco was capable of being so smart and cunning I think its overlooked by a lot of people. Many just think Slytherin? Must be an evil little git! I think Slytherins are multi faceted just like any house. Although being one myself I could be slightly bias.

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    1. Thank you so much!! ❤ I totally get that! And yes absolutely! heheh yes- but I absolutely get that, cos I have a soft spot for Slytherin 😉 (it's cos I'm a Ravenclaw, they tend to get on better with Slytherins 😉 )

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  4. Wow, I LOVE this review! You captured it like, perfectly. I adore the writing style in this first book the most. The tone is just so, like, almost sarcastic. The first sentence has to be one of the best first sentences of all time, right up there with Pride and Prejudice. I admit to also being a bit of a Ron fan, not because I particularly like him, but because I love that there’s a character who is “good”, but so clearly not very nice. I think he is so important because he reads like a real 11 year old kid. He’s offhandedly mean to anyone he doesn’t like, and too careless to think about how he treats those who aren’t his friends but aren’t his enemies either. You know, like most people, really. I have to admit I’m a teensy bit hurt that you left out McGonagall, though. Now that I’m a teacher she is quite literally my idol.

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    1. Thank you so much! hehe I really agree with you there! There’s a lot of wry humour and I love it 😀 I really love the opening. And that’s fair enough- I think that’s a really good reason to like him. And yeah I completely get that- he’s just very blunt (and I can relate to that tbh 😉 ) so I ended up relating to him there (no not with the other things). hehe that’s fair enough- I was reallly struggling to get everything in, so I know there were tons of things I left out- I kinda just went with my thoughts in the moment- but I absolutely love her too!

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  5. I loved reading your review! We are reading the illustrated editions now and I’m truly in Heaven. I really wish I’d had these when I was younger. I’ll admit that the earlier books are my favorites. ❤ Great post!

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  6. This is great! I’ve been rereading/ writing about Harry Potter a lot lately because I think Rowling made a lot of writing choices (even as a relatively young, inexperienced author) that made her books stand the test of time, and im fascinated in her process. I so agree that the aspects of world building in the first book–chocolate frogs, etc–make the universe seem so incredibly tangible. I’m excited to read your reviews of the other books in the series (even the infamous book five!)

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  7. What a wonderful walk down memory lane. You are so making me want to reread it right now! The world building really is incredible, down to so many details. And it was good that both Hermione and Harry needed stuff explained to them as it would have gotten tiresome having everything explained to only Harry… though Hermione does end up learning more. Lol.
    I really enjoyed your review.

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  8. I really love the first three HP books because they let readers explore all the magic of Harry’s world. The later books are darker and the wonder is lost a little in the danger. But getting to discover Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade and the rest is what really draws me into the series.

    I’m mostly ambivalent towards Ron, but I do like how he is really just an average person. However, he has his moments like when he sacrifices himself in the chess game to give Harry a chance at stopping Voldemort. Ron’s character suggests that even the most ordinary people can sometimes do marvelous things.

    I don’t know that I’d make a “hidden depths” argument aside from the fact that I think most people have little bits of them that are often unexpected. After all, Ron tends pretty much to reset all the time, if you will. Throughout the series he is constantly grappling with being overlooked in his large family and then overlooked because Harry and Hermione are both special and he’s still unremarkable, aka Harry’s sidekick. He doesn’t really get over that. And yet he STILL manages to come through as a good friend and as someone who is brave and loyal and funny. Ron is basically everyone just doing their thing but stepping up to the plate when necessary.

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    1. I do really agree with you there- I have a preference for the earlier ones too and love the world building in them.

      Fair enough. And that makes sense- I do think that he redeems himself somewhat later on (I just never grew to totally like him). And yes, I do really think that he doesn’t progress very much as a character- the issues he has in book 1 are the same ones he has in book 7. I think that it’s internally consistent, but doesn’t show much growth and again, makes me dislike him. Like you said though, he does have a positive side.

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      1. In some respects, I think the chess scene is really Ron’s finest moment and it’s a pity we don’t see more of that. Largely he seems to function as the person who gives Harry some sort of normalcy. So I don’t particularly feel attached to him as a character (especially since the films made him even less relevant, in my opinion), but I guess I can see what Rowling might have been trying to do with him.

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        1. Ah that’s a fair point. And yes I definitely see that- he’s a bit of a window into the “normal” wizarding world at least 😉 And yeah the films butchered his character imo and made him completely irrelevant. Didn’t they leave him out of some important scenes or give his lines to Hermione? Either way, I barely remember him in the films after the first two.

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  9. I agree with how enjoyable the writing style is! I was supposed to only read book 5 for a children’s lit course, but ended up reading book 1-7 in a little over a week just because of how the opening of the first book captured me!

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  10. I am SO together with you on the Ron disliking camp! xD I even had an entire outline for a post about how Ron SUCKED in the Goblet book. Like, he sucked!!! He was so mean, weak spirited, jealous and insensitive that I can’t even. But since I actually haven’t read the last books yet (gasp! I just don’t want to run out. I’ve been spacing them out by years xD) I first feel like I should finish the series and give Ron a chance xD but that is a good point that Ron might be representing your average joe.

    One thing I often wonder is if JK actually had the plot in her head when she started writing, like, for all the books? Or did it just develop later? Cause you’re right, it’s a very big and intriguing plot 🙂

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    1. yay!! So glad I’m not the only one!! I so get that- and I definitely have more choice words to share when I get to book 4 😉 You’re so right!! Ah fair enough! Thank you!

      Oh it definitely does- I hope when you get to the end you see the way it all joins together, cos it’s really clever 🙂

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  11. Ahh I’m definitely an ALL CAPS type of person. ahem… LOVED THIS! Book one is always the one I reach for when I reread. When I first read the book I only noticed how much of a git Malfoy was, but I loved that you pointed that out. It was awfully cunning of him and it’s no wonder he was a Slytherin haha.

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  12. I always forget how much I adore the first HP book until I read it again, it sounds weird considering the topic of the whole series but it is just so magical! Seeing everything for the first time through Harry’s eyes honestly never gets old, and it probably helps that it makes me really nostalgic thinking back to when I was young and reading it for the first time! Great review! 🙂

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  13. Awesome review! I love the first book because of the whole introductions to the magic world thing, and we meet the characters for the first time, and the beginning of their friendship etc. But my favorites are the darker ones, Phoenix onward and Azkaban 🙂 Can’t wait for your reviews for the other ones! 🙂

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  14. Agree on so much of this! And I always thought of Ron as the most “everyman” possible to join the “Boy Who Lived” and clearly the “brightest witch of her age” – after all, he’s nearly the youngest child of a big family, with big expectations (I mean, you have a brother who’s a dragon trainer – and the best you can do is annoy your little sister and maybe beat someone at chess – yeah, you’re going to be ripe to develop a resentful side!) Also I thought Ron always being “shown up” by Fred and George, and even Ginny at times, provided a really good test for his actual strength of character – Ron’s a great one for examining character flaws and yet realizing that he’s deep down not a *bad* guy. Because when push comes to shove, he *will* make the honorable choice – whereas someone like Draco never did.

    And I have to say, although I was an adult when I first read this, Voldemort killing the unicorn sealed the deal in my mind as him being the true villain – I loved unicorns so much as a child this really is the unforgivable sin in my view!

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    1. Thank you so much! hehehe so right about him being kinda in the shadow of his dragon trainer brother 😉 And yeah that’s really true. He really is- and I agree with you that he eventually makes the right choices.

      Oh don’t get me wrong, I completely see Voldy as a villain- there’s just really specific things I kinda disagree with- but I’ll get into that in a later review 😉

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  15. Fantastic review! It’s really remarkable to look back and see how much confidence Rowling had at the time, which is even more remarkable considering how much she’d been through. She really had a plan from the beginning for all seven books and was determined to see it through no matter what happened.
    A less confident writer may have given away some things she knew all along but didn’t reveal until the very end.

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  16. I’m with you on the italics vs. all caps. If someone is typing in all caps, they had better intend for me to read it as yelling at the top of one’s voice.

    One of the things I like about the first book so much is how everything is magical. I get that after 5 or so years of living in a magical world magic would start to become normal and the wonder would be lost… but that was my favorite part about the series. The magic (and I don’t mean the spells). Ah well.

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  17. Lovely review! The first several Harry Potter books /are/ magical, and Rowling definitely does one of the best “chosen one” / oblivious child introduced to an alternate world / stories. I remember very clearly how engrossing the details were reading it as a child – and I agree with your comment about how, having read the first book so much, it’s kind of hard to capture that same level of excitement again.

    I’m really looking forward to your other reviews/thoughts on later books. For me, a lot of what’s been … changed for me is in reaction to the more that Rowling has produced since the 7th book, pretty much none of which I liked/haven’t read myself, for various (problematic) reasons. It hasn’t ruined the original series for me, but it’s burnt me out on reading more in the canon. What I lovelovelove about Harry Potter is the fandom. Absolutely wonderful people and their creativity/world-building is perfection.

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  18. lol yeah I’m not a fan of the all-caps to express anger thing either. 😂 And the moment when the trio become friends is one of my favorite moments too! The way it was written was so poignant and witty, and it moved me unexpectedly a lot (along with the Mirror of Erised scene). As for Ron, I didn’t even know people didn’t like him till I got into the book community; I’m still the biggest advocate for him, but I do understand why people wouldn’t like him. Terrific post! It was really fun reading your thoughts on this book. 😉

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  19. Brilliant review for this book, and I’m glad this was one of the ones you didn’t have a lot of issues with as well. You’ve actually made me want to drop everything right this second and start reading The Philosopher’s Stone myself! I have the whole Harry Potter series on my re-read list this year but want to get around to it ASAP. 🙂
    Although just based on what you’ve said in this review I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on some of the attitudes towards evil, because I think already I get where you’re coming from just from what I remember of the series.
    Again great review. 🙂 ❤

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  20. Amazing review for this book! 😀 I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and analysis on it. (Definitely looking forward to your reviews of the other books.) I dislike Ron a lot, I always have. I actually never understood why so many people seemed to love him. Everyone I know in real life loves him, so it was great coming online and finding people who dislike him as well. 😀

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  21. So glad to see so much love for this series, especially the first couple of books! I’m curious about how it will all evolve as you get around to the rest of the books. 😮 By the way, have you read Rowling’s books under her pseudonym name? I’m not sure why people don’t rave as much about those books. Were they not as original? 😮

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  22. Man, I feel really old reading this. Also, I had no idea for the longest time that Philospher’s Stone and Sorceror’s Stone were the same book. I always thought I was missing a book in the series and would have to come back to it, haha. I enjoyed you taking me back down memory lane. I can remember the writing in the beginning and I agree with you that it was pretty great especially when reading it around the same age as the characters. Very relatable and fun. 🙂

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