Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — I read it quite a number of years ago. So it’s been really interesting revisiting it, along with the other books in the series. But this time I also got to see it through the eyes of my ten-year-old daughter.
Last year, I started to read the Harry Potter books to my then nine-year-old daughter, Nykita (see: “Revisiting Harry” & “Opening the Chamber of Secrets… again”). She loved them, but didn’t want to go on to the third book, as she was worried that it might be a little too scary. So we decided to wait a while. But last month, after re-reading the first two books herself, she declared that she was ready for me to read the third book to her.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is an interesting book. The titular prisoner is Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather and the man who supposedly betrayed Harry’s parents to the dark wizard Voldemort.
This is the book where things start edge towards darkness, focussing a little bit more on the actual circumstances of the murder of Harry’s parents. It is also noteworthy as the only book in the series in which Voldemort doesn’t make an appearance.
The book holds together extremely well. It is, I think, the best of the first three. It is longer than the first two, but not so long as to be meandering and unwieldy. It is still a reasonably tight story, with a good balance of plot, character development and set-up for future books. I have a slight problem with the time travel stuff at the end, but I think that time travel is a problematic plot device at the best of times. In terms of the Harry Potter universe, after reading this book, one can’t help but wonder why time travel isn’t utilised again to solve future problems. Why? Because it is merely a plot device that is conveniently ignored thereafter by the author. But if you can overlook that, the book is an excellent read.
What I enjoyed most about reading this book to Nykita, were her reactions. They seemed more intense with this book. There were moments when she was literally bouncing up and down with excitement as I read. Or laughing uncontrollably. And towards the end, when Sirius Black had been revealed, she was huddled in bed, blanket over her head with just her eyes peeking out. The power of the written word. Pure magic!
As with the first two books, we followed up the reading with a viewing of the film. It is without a doubt, my least favourite of the films. This film has quite a different look and feel to the first two (probably due to a change of director), which I like — it results in a visually more striking film. But it doesn’t quite hang together for me in other ways. The pacing seems wrong. Some of the scenes struck me as a little forced. And it’s the first film after the death of Richard Harris, with Michael Gambon taking over the role of Dumbledore — and while he certainly settles into the role over the next few films, making the part truly his own, this first outing lacks the subtlety of Harris’s performance.
Now we’ve gone straight into Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Yes, she thinks it might be too scary… but she simply can’t bear to wait!
Catch ya later, George
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