Thursday, April 29, 2010
Well, it has been like a very long relationship, between me and this audio. The kids and I have been listening to it since (checking library records) before Christmas. 23 discs is a long haul when we only listen in the car, when everyone is in the car, and when there is nothing urgent to discuss.
If you haven't read the Harry Potter series or seen the movies, and you don't want any spoilers, please cease and desist here, and proceed to my final two paragraphs!!!
When I reflect on my journeys with Harry Potter, the Order of the Phoenix is one that tends to be blurred in my memory, sandwiched between Cedric's death in The Goblet of Fire and Dumbledore's death in the Half Blood Prince. But in re-reading/listening, there is much to remember about this installment:
* One of the literature's most vile villains comes to life. Delores Umbridge is described as toad-like, with a girlish giggle, pink cardigans, and a blood-thirsty taste for torture. Reading about her makes me squirm with discomfort, she is so nasty. One of the top ten moments in the series is when she is dragged off by angry centaurs.
* The "gang" grows a couple cajones. In response to Umbridge's effort to suppress all productive education in the area of the Dark Arts, Harry and friends form a subversive army whose sole mission is to learn the skills that enable them to defend themselves against Voldemort.
* The prophecy is revealed. See, Trelawney isn't good for nothing!
* The death of Sirius. This is possibly one of the most heart-breaking moments, next to losing Dumbledore. Harry finally finds "family", to lose it again forever. I shed a tear every time I read it or see it.
* More history on Severus Snape. Dare we feel pity? This character development is critical for further plot, and makes the hook-nosed, greasy-haired teacher just a tad more complicated.
Strangely, I felt an emotion with this audio book that I hadn't felt before in previous readings, and that is an irritation and annoyance with Harry. Had he focused on learning how to block out Voldemort from his thoughts (occlumency), the death of Sirius and injury of his friends could have been prevented. But then I guess it wouldn't have been nearly as exciting an ending, huh? Still, when I listened carefully, I could hear an internal dialogue in my mind that was pretty harsh..."Harry always sticks his nose into things that are best left alone", "Harry should stop trying to rebel and listen to Dumbledore already" and "Harry is always trying to be a hero and save people". I know Harry beats himself up over it, and Dumbldore isn't innocent in the whole mess, but I was less forgiving this time around.
Jim Dale continues to perform at a level that I feel puts him in the top narrators of all time (under Simon Vance of course). Whether he is singing "Weasely is Our King", uttering Umbridge's little clearing-the-throat "hem hem" noises (which makes the kids and I laugh uncontrollably every time), or portraying a devastated Harry who is no longer comfortable in his own skin, he is truly remarkable.
To me, The Order of the Phoenix is where my stomach started to hurt from the tension and tragedy of the plot. (I mean this with love in my heart of course. It is a good thing if a book causes physiological reactions in me.) By the end of The Half-Blood Prince, however, I'm almost nauseous. I guess what I am trying to say is that the climax of the Harry Potter series begins it's ascent here, and steadily climbs to its peak late in book 7. Make sure your seat belt is secure and your hands are inside the car.
4.5 out of 5 stars