Monday, October 9, 2000

Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Book cover: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
No doubt about it, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books DO get better and better with each volume. No. 4, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, is going to be a tough act to follow, and I am already looking forward to No. 5.

I've never been able to see any merit in the opinion that so-called children's books cannot be read and enjoyed by adults. The Harry Potter series is a perfect example of fine literature that can be enjoyed by all ages.

With each book, Harry and his companions age one year. As they get older, their perspectives gain in maturity. The writing becomes more mature in keeping with the characters' development. Book 4, in my opinion, is already at or above the reading level of some adults. My husband and I have worked to cultivate rich vocabularies, and we had to look up a couple of words in the dictionary.

The books also take on more and more complex themes: Like the non-magic world, the wizarding community has its prejudice -- expressed not in terms of skin pigmentation but of magical parentage (Witches and wizards who come from Muggle families are termed "Mudbloods" by pure-blooded magic users). What better way to introduce children to the concept of prejudice, and in a way that makes abundantly clear that it is wrong and inexcusable?

Some of the moral issues explored by Harry and his peers are still being wrestled with by adults. From Book 3, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, one such moral dilemma comes to mind -- When are extreme punishments appropriate, and for what crimes?

Something is noticeably different in No. 4 in comparison with the three previous books -- for some reason, the American publishers decided to leave all the British slang intact. Generally, I was able to deduce the meaning through context, but if you find this difficult, a query on "British English" turned up several dictionaries of British slang available through

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire marks a midway point in the entire series, planned to be seven volumes altogether. The book also introduces themes that will carry over in a successive volume or volumes. J.K. Rowling has handled this well, creating a book that concludes the year's episode neatly but that raises compelling issues that this reader is eagerly awaiting further developments in.

As I have said before, I do not feel Ms. Rowling's books promote the occult. The fantastic circumstances of being witches and wizards are there, but the good characters really do embody many positive traits of humanity. These are still children, however, and they have the flaws and preoccupations that children of their age have naturally. Whatever the age of the reader, these books have a great deal to offer, and I strongly recommend them.

Posted Oct. 9, 2000 to