Hi all! Today I am back and so excited to review the second book in the amazing Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets.
This is part of my Harry Potter Marathon from June-December 2016. I will read and review one Harry Potter book each month. Check out my review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Please share your comments and read along with me!
I got some great feedback on my organization on my last Harry Potter review and have done a similar style of review this time. Enjoy! 🙂
My first experience with this book – I got this book and Prisoner of Azkaban for Christmas when I was in elementary school. And I remember being so excited to read the next stories about Harry. I am lucky enough to be in the generation that grew up with Harry. So reading about his story was part of my growing up years too. I wanted to go to a boarding school and learn magic.And I loved reading about life at the Burrow. I wanted to live there so bad! I was a young, innocent child and found the story exciting and fun. In many ways, my first encounter with this book is like the story itself.
What surprised me this time – Like the first book, I was surprised by the simplicity of this novel. The story is simple and easy to follow. There is a lot of action going on in a short amount of pages (the scenes in the chamber of secrets are not actually that long but we actually get a lot of details about what they are doing in the classroom [mandrakes, transforming bunnies, Lockhart’s antics]). The focus seems to be on the action rather than inner monologues of the characters, which I enjoyed. In fact, the innocence of the characters surprised me. Harry still is so naive and doesn’t understand the complexities of his relationship with Voldemort nor does he expect to meet Voldemort again; he doesn’t have the deep relationship with Dumbledore that defines the later books; and we only get glimpses of the love triangles to come. And of course I loved the humor. Lockhart, Hagrid, Colin Creevy, Fred and George and more say such hilarious things that had me laughing out loud.
A few thoughts on genre – I have an awesome book group with some friends from my Master’s program that meets monthly, and we had a lovely chat about Harry Potter and genre this month. I wanted to share a few of our ideas. First, the genre of the Harry Potter series is hard to define. The first three books are more geared towards children–the stories are central to the novel and are more simple. Additionally, these books lack the complexity and darkness to come in later books. We don’t know the intricacies of Harry’s connection with Voldemort yet, nor of his quest to find horcruxes. And while Harry has faced Voldemort twice in two books, the darkness of those encounters is rather muted–a half-alive face on the back of Quirrell’s head and then a memory of Tom Riddle. I think this children’s/middle grade genre is fitting for these books when Harry is so young.
Who I love most in this book – Everyone is still so simple in this book compared to what is to come. I love Hermione for her ingenuity and love of books. Also for her ability to make an extremely complex potion over weeks and having it work properly. I love Ginny (yes, she is a bit ridiculous and weepy at times) but I love her because it’s our first real interaction with her and already I am remembering how much I love the Ginny in the books. I love Gilderoy Lockhart because he is so ridiculous and pompous. His Valentine’s Day “treats” are just hilarious! I love Moaning Myrtle because she is dramatic and hilarious at the same time–and she is perfect in the movies. I love Fred and George Weasley because they lighten any mood, are good a Quidditch (save Harry from the bludger for a while) and always make me laugh (their goofy songs and escorting Harry as the heir of Slytherin. Haha). Last but not least, I adore DOBBY! He means so well but makes such big messes of himself while trying to
kill save Harry.
How I see Harry changing – I love seeing Harry more confident in this book. He has something to look forward to in returning to Hogwarts and starts making more friends (at least initially). Yet I noticed he was still so innocent. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself because of his connection with Voldemort. He doesn’t understand why it’s so bad he is a Parselmouth and never once thinks that Voldemort might be the heir of Slytherin (which was super obvious to me this time around). I appreciate his bravery and courage in saving Ginny and fighting battles with people far more learned and wise than himself.
What I learn from this book – Choices define us. One of my favorite quotes from Dumbledore is below and speaks to this theme. Harry is almost obsessed with his fear of being in Slytherin in this book. But we learn that he can (and already has) define himself differently from Voldemort. For most of this book, Harry cannot move on from his experience with the sorting hat. He feels like he might belong in Slytherin. I love that he pulls Godric Gryffindor’s sword out of the hat to defeat the basilisk. I think his conversation with Dumbledore afterwards is a good lesson in choosing how we will act even when we have doubts or fears about the future. Tell people your trust about your fears. Imagine if Harry had told Dumbledore about the mysterious voice and the parselmouth stuff when Dumbledore asked earlier in the book. And imagine if Ginny had actually told her parents and/or brothers about the diary earlier in the novel. We wouldn’t have much of the later action, but we would have wiser characters 😉 Lastly, Always confirm that you understand the truth. Hermione is a great example of this with her research about the basilisk and use of the mirror to avoid being killed. She does her research to understand what is attacking students. But Harry is a poor example of this idea because he just accepts Tom Riddle’s story about why Hagrid was expelled. He doesn’t talk to Hagrid about it or anyone else. He just accepts a perceived truth which is later proven to be wrong. Their contrasting ways of understanding truth are compelling.
How I would teach this book in a class – I think I better start drafting a real syllabus for my “Harry Potter as Literature 101” course 🙂 So many great possibilities here! I would have students write about how different characters deal with fear (we have Ginny depressed and silent or Ernie Macmillian spreading rumors, or Hermione doing research). Another idea is to contrast the meeting Harry has with Tom Riddle with his encounter with Quirrell at the end of book 1–how are they similar or different? We could also write about the contrasting ways Hermione and Ron change in this book. Both are confronted with death (Hermione petrified by the basilisk and Ron almost loses his sister, Ginny), and we learn more about their backgrounds (scenes at the Burrow and at Diagon Alley). How do these experiences and details change our perceptions of them? And we could write a big essay about understanding and connecting truth and memory in this book. So many examples to pull from–Lockhart and his books, Tom Riddle’s diary, Ginny and the Chamber of Secrets, history of Hogwarts and the myth of the Chamber of Secrets. Oh, that would be cool!
And, of course, a few of my favorite quotes, both classics and a few new favorites. I LOVE the quote from Ron about Hermione and the library. And Mr. Weasley’s quote is one I didn’t remember from previous readings–but love now 🙂
“I will only truly have left this school when none here are loyal to me. help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.”
“I seem to remember telling you both that I would have to expel you if you broke any more school rules,” said Dumbledore. …. “Which goes to show that the best of us must sometimes eat our words.”
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, pages 264 & 330-331
Basically, everything that Lockhart says is ridiculous, hilarious, or almost profound. This is one of my favorites:
“Amazing! Amazing! This is just like magic!”
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, page 325
Loved this book more than ever this time around!
Have you read The Chamber of Secrets recently? Post your link below!